New Mexicans rush to obtain passports

Posted at: 12/06/2012 7:16 PM
Updated at: 12/06/2012 7:18 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Scores of New Mexicans are in a race against time to get a passport before the federal Real ID Act goes into effect on January 15th, 2013.

Starting that day, New Mexicans will not be allowed to use a driver's license as identification to get through airport security or enter a federal building.

The date the Real ID Act goes into effect has been pushed back so many times, but there's no sign the Department of Homeland Security will back down this time, it has been a mad rush for residents to get their hands on a passport.

"I travel at least like six times a year, and I have a little one too that I bring along with me," Christin Carr, who showed up at Albuquerque's main post office Thursday, said.

Carr, like others, expected to walk in and begin the process to get a passport, a piece of identification she, and anyone else with a New Mexico driver's license, will need starting mid-January, if they plan to fly.

"Kinda makes you feel like, you're not on the same level as the other states," Carr said.

There are two locations where people can obtain a passport in Albuquerque, the post office at 1135 Broadway Blvd. NE and the manzano station at 11600 Haines Ave. NE.

Most locations required applicants to call to schedule an appointment. As of Thursday, the Broadway location was already backlogged until December 19th.

The Department of Homeland Security enacted the Real ID Act back in 2005 in response to September 11th.

Essentially, the act states, federal agencies cannot accept state-issued driver's licenses or ID cards if the state does not meet minimum security standards, which include, "evidence that the applicant is a U.S. Citizen."

Since proof of citizenship is not required to get a license in New Mexico, the state does not meet that standard.

"People who are U.S. citizens, and New Mexicans should not be penalized because of those who aren't," Iona Barela, who also needs a passport, said.

Governor Susana Martinez told KOB Eyewitness News 4 this is one reason why she has relentlessly tried to have the law repealed. The state legislature has twice rejected the repeal; however, Martinez said she will be pushing for it again in the upcoming session.

"We need that legislative fix, that's the only way we can do this and gain compliance, is to repeal that law, but the legislature has to be the ones to do it," Martinez said.

Statewide, there are 43 locations where residents can obtain passports.

Typical process time is about four to six weeks.