SANTA FE, N.M. (CN) — New Mexico has settled a class action led by a former mayor of Santa Fe who challenged regulations on issuance of “second tier” driver’s licenses and ID cards that do not comply with federal REAL ID specifications.
In the REAL ID Act of 2005 Congress set standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards, putatively to fight terrorism and immigration fraud.
Former Mayor David Coss sued New Mexico in January this year, with six other New Mexico residents plus the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness and the human rights organization Somos un Pueblo Unido. They objected that the defendants New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department and its Motor Vehicle Division were demanding an “identification number” such as a Social Security number and other documents not required by law before issuing a New Mexico second-tier driver’s license or ID card.
New Mexico’s “two-tiered driver’s license law” was signed into law on March 8, 2016. It allows the state to issue a second-tier license, known as a Driving Authorization Card, or a non-federally compliant ID card. New Mexico driver’s licenses and ID cards are REAL ID-compliant and require more documentation than Driving Authorization Cards and non-federally compliant ID cards. But either form of identification can be used to work, rent a hotel room or open a bank account.
Until recently, when New Mexicans applied for Driving Authorization Cards (DACs) or non-federally compliant ID cards, the Motor Vehicle Division demanded an identification number, such as a Social Security card, which is not required by state law for second-tier identifications.
The lawsuit addressed this disparity, and accused the MVD of failing to provide information on the appeal process for people who have been turned down for a Driving Authorization Cards or no-compliant ID.
Santa Fe First Judicial District Court Judge David K. Thomson approved a settlement on Aug. 17. The agreement states that the MVD will comply with emergency regulations issued in late June this year that eliminate the identification number requirement and expand the list of acceptable documents. According to a fact sheet from Somos un Pueblo Unido, the Motor Vehicle Division also must take these steps:
- Update handouts, procedures and other public postings that explain the revised eligibility criteria for DACs and non-federally compliant ID cards and the right of applicants to appeal the denial of an MVD credential.
- Train MVD staff and contractors on the requirements and post documents at all MVD offices in English and Spanish informing applicants of their right to a fair hearing.
- Implement a revised affirmation that DAC applicants are required to sign.
- Mail a letter to the last address of record of New Mexicans who were previously denied a DAC or a non-federally compliant ID card on the basis of a fingerprint background check and are still without a credential.
- Update all information and materials regarding the new rules on the MVD website, local offices and other materials.
- Undertake a public information campaign to inform the public about the changes to document requirements for the DAC and the non-federally compliant ID card, along with changes to other policies and procedures. The public information campaign may include public service announcements, radio, television, English and Spanish-language media and potentially other means to disseminate the information.
“We’re relieved the MVD has agreed to stop asking New Mexicans to provide unnecessary documentation in order to get a non-REAL ID license or ID,” said Sovereign Hager, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.
“MVD’s decision to comply with our state law benefits all New Mexicans, but especially families who do not have a stable place to live or consistent employment. An ID or driver’s license is a basic necessity to do just about anything. Without one, you can’t drive, fill a prescription, cash a check, find housing, or get job to support your family. We hope MVD will continue to work on common sense improvements that will streamline access to IDs and licenses for all New Mexicans.”