Archive for the ‘New Mexico’ Category

BTC Exclusive

New Mexico reports are piling in about every facet and every detailed move DHS or their local governance makes in the direction of a national ID card. However, New Mexico’s Senators Udall and Bingaman both have responded to constituents demands to go against the PASS Act.
Most states are pacing themselves on the national ID debate to get through the Healthcare valley of decision. Provisional procrastination on PASS ID and the prospective DHS deadline drama has created a slow reaction time from most States. However, New Mexico’s political leaders are buzzing. State level press has been dispached on fact finding missions for any whisker movement from the national ID strata, reporting any leg of development as quickly as possible.
To wit, we feature Neala Schwartzberg for news and analysis in New Mexico. To follow is her latest on New Mexico’s relationship to Real ID and a digest of her recent work on the issue. We thank her for joining the ranks of media active in coverage of this issue.

New Mexico is not supportive of Real ID in its current form.When talking about Real ID, [Rick] Homans [Secy. of NM Tax and Revenues] says, “It was a bad law to begin with and that’s why 14 states have passed binding legislation that prohibits their state government from taking any steps to comply with Real ID.”


Special to BTC, Neala Schwartzberg

One of the issues for us in New Mexico is the issue of foreign nationals. New Mexico views border security as a federal issue and the safety of New Mexico roads and highways as a state issue.

The lack of compliance with the Real ID act does not come from poor security. When it comes to the nuts and bolts of Real and Pass ID, all the security measures, background checks New Mexico is fully in compliance.

Homans notes that people have the perception that if we solve the issue of foreign nationals we’d be home free – but we are still strongly opposed because the issues of privacy and compliance and federal government overstepping its reach.

Neala Schwartzberg is an Albuquerque-based freelance writer specializing in travel-related stories, and publisher of and and The Albuquerque Travel Examiner.


Federal law could nix using N.M. license to board plane

New Mexico and other states objecting to provisions of the federal Real ID Act hope a new version will have security guidelines that are easier to meet, at costs they can afford.

For now, though, New Mexico is among states that by Oct. 11 will seek an extension to comply with rules governing one of the most commonly used forms of government-issued identification: driver’s licenses.

If federal officials don’t grant an extension, state Department of Taxation and Revenue Secretary Rick Homans said, “you have to be compliant by January 2010 or they will not accept residents’ driver’s licenses from those states for airline travel.”

Passengers could still use alternative forms of government-issued identification for boarding a plane, such as a passport.

Thirty-three states oppose the plan, something Homans called “basically a state rebellion.”

“I just can’t see a way Real ID will be implemented because so many states have taken such a strong stand and won’t be bullied by the federal government on this,” Homans said last week. “I think Real ID is basically DOA.”

One of the main sticking points in New Mexico’s case is that the state issues driver’s licenses to foreign nationals. The Real ID Act, passed in 2005 as part of a broader effort to tighten security following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, requires proof of legal status in the country to get a driver’s license.

Homans said U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials recently visited the state to look at New Mexico’s procedures for issuing those licenses, including steps the Motor Vehicle Division takes to verify documents.

Since 2003, New Mexico has allowed immigrants to get driver’s licenses using a Mexican government-issued ID or a taxpayer identification number. The state, which has issued thousands of such licenses, recently stepped up document verification and works with Mexican officials to check authenticity.

Gov. Bill Richardson and others say roads are safer because immigrants learn about driving under U.S. laws. Others point out that immigrants with licenses are required to have proof of insurance, which has lowered the state’s uninsured driver rate.

Opponents have said the system is easy to foil, allowing noncitizens to get a government ID under false pretenses.

Like the Real ID Act, a new proposal known as the PASS ID Act contains a provision requiring proof of lawful status to get an approved ID.

Richardson “has reservations about both proposals and he does not plan on changing his position,” a spokesman said.

That means state officials will wait and see what, if anything, changes as the PASS ID Act develops, and what New Mexico will have to do to be compliant.

The new proposal’s title is shorthand for Providing Additional Security in States’ Identification Act of 2009.

A Senate committee has approved the bill, which would have to clear the full Senate and House.

Like New Mexico, other states that object to Real ID have complained about costs and privacy issues, among other things.

And New Mexico privacy advocates say the PASS ID Act isn’t much different from the first try at a national ID law.

“It really does most everything Real ID did,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU-New Mexico.

“It did nothing to stem the concern of privacy rights organizations that states wouldn’t incorporate radio-frequencies chips in the cards, so ultimately you’d have a situation where people’s data could be scanned from afar, that other data could be stored there, that people could illegally scan the data,” he said.

Simonson said he’s also concerned about other things included in the proposal, including giant databases of information that could be vulnerable to hacking.

The PASS ID Act also contains a provision that requires state laws to include provisions that employees who handle the documents a driver presents must complete training on fraudulent document recognition.

It also would help states with some of the upfront costs of complying with the mandates, unlike the Real ID, which Homans said would cost the state $12 million to implement, including equipment and software, and $1.5 million in recurring annual costs.

Totals costs to states would reach at least $11 billion over five years, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Governors Association and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

A spokesman for the Air Transport Association in Washington, D.C., said the group doesn’t prefer one act over the other.

“We don’t have a preference from a security perspective. We rely on the Department of Homeland Security and the (Transportation Security Administration) to make the decisions that are in the best interest of the country,” said David Castelveter, vice president of communications.

He added: “We certainly do, in fact, want whatever those decisions are, as it relates to transportation, to be as seamless as possible to the passenger.”

Contact Kate Nash at 986-3036 or Read her blog at

Written by Steve Taylor and Joey Gomez , Rio Grande Guardian

McALLEN, July 24 – Forty three members of Congress have sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano voicing concern over the “mounting” environmental and societal impact of the border wall and other security barriers.

The lawmakers have asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cooperate with other applicable agencies to create and fund a “robust border-wide environmental monitoring program” and to provide “sufficient mitigation funding” for damage caused by border security infrastructure and enforcement activities along the Southwest border region.

“It is the Secretary’s responsibility to protect the homeland, not selectively destroy our environment,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., one of the 43 members of Congress to sign the letter.

Grijalva, who convened a congressional hearing about the border wall at the University of Texas at Brownsville last year, said a review is necessary to “quantify, compensate for and avoid the negative consequences of border security infrastructure and operations.” He said border communities are “open to working on behalf of security – not a selective security, but rather one that includes habitat, national, border, and regional security.”

Grijalva described the hundreds of miles of border fencing constructed by DHS as a “massive federal project.” He said the project has had “serious consequences upon natural and cultural public resources, and has caused hardship for private land owners, whose lands have been condemned and livelihoods have been disrupted.”

Scott Nicol, a co-founder of the No Border Wall group, pointed out that U.S. Fish and Wildlife estimates that 60 percent of their National Wildlife Refuge tracts in south Texas will be impacted by the border wall. The South Texas tracts were established, in part, for the protection of endangered species such as the ocelot and jaguarondi.

“We are pleased to hear that 43 members of Congress are stepping up to the plate and attempting to correct some of the environmental damage that the border wall has done. If former Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff had not been given the power to waive all laws, this would have been addressed before wall construction began. Chertoff used the Real ID Act to waive the National Environmental Policy Act, along with 35 other federal laws, stopping the usual Environmental Impact Statement process in its tracks,” Nicol told the Guardian.

“Before the first bulldozer dug into the earth to clear a path for the wall, many of its impacts had been predicted. The Environmental Protection Agency warned that blasting in California’s Otay Mountain Wilderness Area would dump thousands of tons of rock and sediment into the Tijuana River. Defenders of Wildlife issued a report on the Arizona wall’s impacts on the ability of endangered Sonoran pronghorn to migrate. U.S. Fish and Wildlife told DHS that Hidalgo County’s levee-border wall would be incompatible with the mission of the wildlife refuges that it would slice through.”

The letter from the members of Congress has this to say about the environmental impact of the border wall in south Texas:

“In south Texas, private land owners and agricultural interests have significant tracts of land that have been or will be isolated to the south of border fencing. Yet, DHS has only offered compensation for the exact footprint of the infrastructure – failure to recognize or compensate for fiscal losses of property value and accessibility caused by the construction of border fencing.”

Nicol said the monitoring and mitigation program that the members of Congress are calling for would be a “good first step towards bringing scientific rigor to an understanding of the wall’s impacts.” However, he said the No Border Wall group is concerned that DHS will ignore its findings, “just as they ignored the Environmental Protection Agency, Defenders of Wildlife, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife.” :::MORE HERE:::