In a recent The Hill piece on the REAL ID debate in New Hampshire, I wrote about the complaint against federal legislators who cease representing their states in Washington, D.C., and start representing Washington, D.C., in their states.
That seems to be happening in New Mexico, where four of five members of the congressional delegation are at best standing by worrying about a Department of Homeland Security attack on their state. At worst, they are lobbying the state legislature to cede authority over driver licensing to the federal government.
The DHS is pushing New Mexico toward compliance with REAL ID, the national ID law, by saying that it will not offer another extension of the deadline for compliance. The statutory deadline passed seven years ago and no state is in compliance. No state will be in 2016. The national ID law is as unworkable as it is weak as a security tool.
But U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D) and Martin Heinrich (D), and Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) had this to say in a joint statement:
Our offices remain in close contact with DHS and it is clear from our conversations that the state legislature and the governor must take action to ensure New Mexicans can continue to access federal facilities and airports in the months to come.
It's not the New Mexico delegation calling the shots in Washington, D.C. It's Ted Sobel of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of State-Issued Identification Support. According to Government Technology, he confirmed Friday that New Mexico's practice of issuing licenses to qualified drivers without reference to their immigration status is the reason why DHS has mounted this attack on New Mexico.
That's a good state policy, though, treating driver's licenses simply as a license to drive. And it's the policy New Mexico has chosen. I can imagine New Mexicans being nonplussed to learn that their congressional delegation is "in close contact" with the federal bureaucrats attacking their state's policies and authority.
A Santa Fe New Mexican editorial calling for state compliance is too conciliatory and wrong in its conclusion, but it says of REAL ID, "It likely won’t increase security but does add to the bureaucratic hurdles citizens and state governments face. Another solution to New Mexico’s problem would be for Congress to repeal the law."
Another solution indeed. Perhaps the paper should urge the congressional delegation to defend the interests of New Mexico and New Mexicans by defunding and repealing the national ID law.