- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - White Sands Missile Range and Sandia Labs announced restrictions Monday on accepting New Mexico driver’s licenses as a form of identification from visitors, increasing pressure on state lawmakers who are trying to find consensus on how to meet federal standards.

White Sands stopped accepting state IDs after receiving guidance from U.S. officials, said Erin Dorrance, a spokeswoman at the southern New Mexico base. The driver’s licenses do not comply with the federal REAL ID Act and visitors will need another form of identification to enter, she said.

“A lot of people already have special access cards to get onto White Sands,” Dorrance said.

Those who don’t will need a passport or a federally compliant form of identification to visit the White Sands Missile Range Museum on the base, she said.

Sandia Labs also cracked down on state licenses. Visitors showing New Mexico licenses must bring an additional form of ID, such as a Social Security card or birth certificate, spokeswoman Lindsey Kibler said.



The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned New Mexico to expect changes after Sunday if Gov. Susana Martinez and state lawmakers didn’t promise in writing to pass a law complying with REAL ID. The state did not send such a letter.

In October, the agency declined to give New Mexico an extension on complying with the tougher rules. REAL ID Act requirements mandate proof of legal U.S. residency for those who want to use state IDs to access certain areas of federal facilities and, eventually, board commercial flights in January 2018.

New Mexico has no such requirement and allows immigrants to get state driver’s licenses regardless of legal status.

The GOP-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate have at least two dueling proposals to meet the federal government’s standards.

The Senate version would allow New Mexico residents to apply for REAL ID-compliant licenses and for noncompliant ones. The House version would require all licenses to align with REAL ID but allow immigrants to apply for driver’s permit cards, similar to a Utah law.

Martinez, a Republican who has sought to repeal the state’s immigrant driver’s license law, blamed Democratic lawmakers for the restrictions at White Sands Missile Range and Sandia Labs. She said Monday that it was time Democrats got behind the GOP-sponsored proposal.

“The Democrats in the Legislature have ignored this problem for far too long, and now we are beginning to suffer the consequences,” Martinez spokesman Mike Lonergan said.

Democratic House Minority Leader Brian Egolf faulted Republicans for not getting behind a Senate proposal last year that would have created a two-tier system.

“The Senate compromise will be back on the table, and I hope that my colleagues across the aisle in the House of Representatives will be willing to hear and discuss it this year,” said Egolf, D-Santa Fe.

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras .

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