Clarity lacking over passport requirement for New Mexicans

Posted at: 12/07/2012 10:35 PM
Updated at: 12/07/2012 10:48 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4

As reported by KOB Eyewitness News 4 Thursday, people throughout New Mexico are in a mad rush to get a passport before the federal Real ID Act goes into effect on Jan. 15, 2013.

New Mexico is one state that has not met the minimum security standards required under the Real ID Act simply because New Mexico does not require proof of citizenship in order to obtain a driver's license.

Currently, a valid New Mexico driver's license is enough for travelers to get through security at the Albuquerque International Sunport.

Viewer comments, emails and phone calls flooded into the KOB newsroom Friday with people seeking clarification if in fact they will additionally need a passport to get on a plane come mid-January.

Libbey Reed of Farmington wrote in an email, "I have contacted TSA a few times and they have assured me that you do not have to have a passport in order to fly."

As of Friday, there was no clear answer.

The Department of Homeland Security has not told Sunport officials if that will be the case.

Gov. Susana Martinez told KOB she knows of no other additional form of identification other than a passport that may be sufficient to get through Transportation Security Administration security after the Real ID Act takes effect. If that is the case, this would apply at any airport in the country, not just the Sunport.

Essentially, if you are traveling through the airport in Ohio, a New Mexico driver's license likely will not be accepted on its own there either.

Another question viewers had was if they can use a New Mexico driver's license and just go through a more vigorous security check at the airport.

A Sunport spokesperson wrote, "Neither the Sunport nor local Transportation Security Administration officials have received any guidance from the Department of Homeland Security on how to deal with passengers who do not hold a Real ID compliant driver's license after the implementation date. Additionally, there is some confusion regarding whether or not the January 15, 2013 deadline mandates that individuals are actually required to hold Real ID compliant licenses or if there is a later deadline for individuals. We are working with the state and local TSA to try and receive a definitive answer from DHS as to the impact this will have on our customers and how we can eliminate or minimize any travel disruptions."

For now, the plan at the Sunport is, unless given a different directive, they will operate security checks as usual, checking boarding passes and driver's licenses.

Martinez advised it is better to be prepared with a valid passport to avoid any possible confusion.

The only way New Mexico will come in compliance with the Real ID Act is for state legislatures to repeal the law that currently issues driver's licenses regardless of citizenship, Martinez said.

Whether New Mexico will have an extension to do that is still up in the air, as the governor is still waiting for a response from the Department of Homeland Security.