New Mexico licenses won't work in airports under federal law -governor

By Zelie Pollon

SANTA FE, N.M., Oct 12 (Reuters) - New Mexico's policy of granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants will violate a federal law taking effect in January, meaning residents won't be able to use their licenses as ID to board airplanes, the state's governor says.

"It's deeply concerning that New Mexicans who work at our labs, get on an airplane, or need to show identification at any other federal facility will no longer be able to use their driver's license to do so," New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez said in a statement.

States have until Monday to tell the federal government whether they plan to comply with the federal Real ID Act, which is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 15 after several delays in implementation since it was passed in 2005. The law creates national standards for the issuance of state driver's licenses and identification cards.

Seventeen states have passed laws opposing compliance with the law, citing uncertainty about privacy protections and a failure by the federal government to fully fund the law's requirements, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Martinez, a Republican who has fought unsuccessfully to overturn the state law allowing illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses, wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Wednesday, asking for clarification about "the implications of a state-issued ID that is not deemed secure by the federal government."

Specifically, she is concerned about a provision of the law that establishes security standards for the "presentation, and verification with the issuing source, of information an applicant provides, including evidence that the applicant is a U.S. citizen or is lawfully present."

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Peter Simonson, executive director of the New Mexico chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, called Martinez's letter a "scare tactic meant to advance her agenda of dismantling New Mexico's driver's license law."

New Mexico is one of three states - along with Utah and Washington - that allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver's licenses. In addition, a California law that allows illegal immigrants with federal work permits to receive driver's licenses takes effect Jan. 1.

Martinez, the nation's first Hispanic female governor, has pushed to outlaw such licenses since she took office in January 2011 and told Napolitano she plans to try again in the legislative session that begins in January.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan)