Every year the New Mexico tourism department gets a lot of letters from potential visitors asking about passport and visa requirements for visiting New Mexico from the United States. These would-be tourists seem not to understand that New Mexico is one of the 50 states of the United States (as it was one of the 48 states now referred to as the "lower 48" before Alaska and Hawaii were admitted in 1959).
I have always felt the response sent to these potential visitors should be that New Mexico does not issue visas to U.S. citizens.New Mexicans have long joked about how much of the rest of our country doesn't believe we're a state. We have become accustomed to others asking what our currency is or being surprised at how well we speak English. We have joked that we need to carry passports to visit other parts of our own country.
But now there's a new wrinkle It appears most New Mexicans will require passports to fly to El Paso or Phoenix or even Los Alamos, or to go onto Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque or onto Cannon Air Force Base or the White Sands Missile Range or into any federal courthouse or federal building.
It's all because of the Real ID Act, which requires (among other things) that state IDs and drivers' licenses be used to identify U.S. citizens and legal residents. But New Mexico, and particularly New Mexico drivers' licenses, are noncompliant because a 2005 New Mexico law mandates issuance of New Mexico drivers' licenses to illegal aliens (or, more specifically, to people who cannot demonstrate they are in the U.S. legally).
Up until now, New Mexico and a number of other states have been given deadline extensions allowing them to avoid compliance with the Act's requirements. But now the Homeland Security Department has denied New Mexico an additional extension for deadline compliance. That, of course, has re-energized the debate over attempts to repeal the 2005 law and the role of the Democrat leadership of the New Mexico Senate in blocking those repeal efforts.
In the meantime, New Mexico residents had better obtain or renew their passports. They'll need those passports to travel into the (rest of the) United States or anywhere else.