REAL ID Fact Sheet



(Compiled and updated by Somos Un Pueblo Unido – January 2016)


In 2003, community and faith groups, victims’ rights advocates, and law enforcement officials came together to promote a law requiring undocumented immigrant drivers to apply for a license.  Since then, about 90,000 immigrants have successfully applied, taking the visual, written and road exams, registering their vehicles, and purchasing auto insurance. The Governor and her anti-immigrant allies have tried to repeal this law six times, but citing the disastrous consequences for public safety, lawmakers have upheld it. Now, the Governor wants to take licenses away from immigrants and force them to carry a discriminatory driver’s permit that would brand them based on their ethnicity and national origin. They mislead the public by saying this is necessary under the federal REAL ID Act, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says otherwise.

REAL ID Act Facts

  • REAL ID Allows States to License Immigrants

DHS has confirmed that REAL ID compliance does not hinge on taking away licenses from immigrant drivers nor does it require states to create separate drivers’ certificates solely for undocumented immigrants.

  • Passport Panic Unnecessary

Citing privacy, cost, and logistical concerns, 28 states remain non-compliant with the REAL ID Act, 12 of which have passed laws prohibiting compliance. Even the New Mexico House in 2007 voted overwhelmingly for a resolution opposing the implementation of Real ID. States’ refusal to comply has led the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to extend enforcement deadlines time and time again. Just recently, DHS announced that it will continue to accept New Mexico drivers’ licenses to board commercial flights until at least 2018. DHS has also publicly stated that there is no need to apply for a passport or change travel plans–contrary to what Martinez’s administration reports.

  • The State Does Not Have to Force New Mexicans to Obtain a National REAL ID License
    The REAL ID Act allows states to give residents a choice. Forcing state residents to obtain a REAL ID compliant license puts an unnecessary burden on New Mexicans, and some citizens will be left out. The REAL ID Act mandates that applicants re-apply for a license in person with several documents proving birthplace, citizenship status, social security number, and residency (a birth certificate or a passport will be one of two documents will be necessary to satisfy these requirements). This means that New Mexicans would have to re-submit their documentation in person to MVD, so that digitized copies can be made available to all MVD clerks across the country. Under federal regulations, applicants who do not have these documents must be denied a REAL ID license.

Senate Bi-partisan Solution

  • In the 2015 legislative session, the Senate passed SB 653 by a vote of 35-5 (including 11 Republicans) that would have made New Mexico REAL ID compliant without discriminating against immigrant families. The Governor publicly rejected it and the Republican-led House never voted on the measure.
  • The bi-partisan Senate compromise, to be reintroduced in 2016, gives citizens and legal immigrants a choice to opt out of getting a REAL ID nationalized driver’s license.
  • It would also allow eligible New Mexicans to obtain a REAL ID compliant license if they choose to go through the federally mandated steps of re-submitting their documentation to MVD. More important, it would also allow the rest of New Mexicans, immigrant and non- immigrants, to keep their licenses, which when renewed would say “Not for Federal Identification Purposes.”
  • This compromise would also continue to require undocumented immigrant drivers to be licensed, registered and insured, without branding them based on ethnicity and national origin. They, like citizens who choose to opt out of the national REAL ID card program, would share the same license that states “Not for Federal ID Purposes.”
  • According to a 2016 scientific poll by Latino Decisions, a leading national research and polling firm, 56% of New Mexico registered Hispanic and non-Hispanic voters support this compromise bill, compared to 39% who don’t. And 69% of registered voters support the continued issuance of driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
  • Another bipartisan bill pre-filed by Representatives Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-Los Alamos) and Representative Paul Bandy (R-San Juan) would also make New Mexico REAL ID compliant by offering qualified residents REAL ID compliant identification cards, while keeping the current license system in tact.

Licensing all qualified drivers is good for public safety

New Mexico is ahead of the national trend

In 2013, citing public safety concerns, seven other states (CA, CO, CT, IL, MD, NV, and VT), Puerto Rico, and Washington DC passed laws similar to New Mexico’s requiring undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.   They did this with strong support from Democrats, Republicans, and police agencies.

Licensing immigrants improves public safety

  • Immigrants are more likely to stay or render aid at the scene of an accident and exchange insurance information.
  • Immigrants are more likely to cooperate with police when being cited for moving violations, make court appearances, and pay fines for traffic violations.
  • Victims and witness are more likely to call the police and participate in investigations.  Victims also need a valid ID to go to court and request restraining orders.

Strengthens efforts to prevent DWI’s and underage drinking

  • All immigrants under 25 must pass a DWI prevention course before applying for a driver’s license.
  • The state can now keep track of immigrants’ DWI violations, sentencing compliance, revocations, etc.
  • Since 2003, New Mexico has seen a big decrease in alcohol-related crashes, injuries, and deaths.
  • Alcohol and tobacco vendors can more accurately determine a person’s age using a state issued drivers’ license rather than foreign documents.

Provides important tools for law enforcement and supports officer safety

  • During stops or investigations, police can quickly identify immigrants and check their record without having to examine documents in foreign languages. This makes officers safer and more efficient.
  • Local, state and federal law enforcement can track outstanding warrants, repeat offenders, child support delinquents, and citations of individuals who do not have social security numbers.
  • All law enforcement, including federal immigration agents, can access MVD records to obtain photos, information, and last known addresses for individuals with outstanding arrest warrants.

Benefits the economy

  • The uninsured motorist rate has decreased from 21% in 2003 to about 9% today, saving all New Mexicans in insurance premiums.
  • Immigrants without socials contributed well over $25 million to MVD in license and registration fees.
  • In order to obtain an ITIN, an immigrant must file their federal income taxes. Immigrants also use the ITIN to pay state income taxes, contributing millions to New Mexico’s tax base.

1 comment for “REAL ID Fact Sheet

  1. February 2, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Saved, I enjoy your site! :)

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