- Associated Press - Saturday, November 14, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico residents are rushing to get passports before driver’s licenses are no longer accepted at federal facilities next year, postal officials said.

The earliest available appointment to apply for a passport at an Albuquerque post office is Feb. 4. Hundreds of residents have made appointments since October, according to the U.S. Postal Service. A passport fair this weekend hosted by the Postal Service to help people sign up is already full. Postal Service spokesman Peter Hass said there will likely be more, KOAT-TV (http://bit.ly/1O8Mfr9) reported.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently denied New Mexico an extension from tougher federal requirements on state driver’s licenses under the REAL ID Act. The decision means New Mexico driver’s licenses and IDs won’t be valid for federal purposes such as entering military bases and nuclear research labs starting Jan. 10.

The Obama administration also is expected to announce next year that New Mexico driver’s licenses won’t be accepted for security screenings at airports.

New Mexico allows immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses. State lawmakers have been at a standstill over how to respond to the changes amid the threat that federal officials would not grant an extension.

The government said the state did not provide adequate justification for an extension. New Mexico’s next legislative session doesn’t begin until Jan. 19, and it’s not clear if a Democratic-controlled Senate and a GOP-led House can agree on a fix.

Meanwhile, the State Taxation and Revenue Office is building a website that would issue updates on how each federal facility in New Mexico is handling the REAL ID transition.

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Information from: KOAT-TV, http://www.thenewmexicochannel.com/index.html

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