Driver’s license law frustrates some residents; New documentation causing some to make multiple trips to MVD
Along with all sorts of documents, New Mexico residents need to bring their patience when they renew or obtain their driver’s licenses now, said some people who recently braved the experience in Roswell.
“Where’s the common sense to this?” asked Gene Gray, who accompanied his 86-year-old mother in her unsuccessful attempt to obtain a REAL ID license. “What special interest group in New Mexico came up with this?”
A new state law went into effect Nov. 14 to establish two different types of driver’s licenses, a Driver’s Authorization Card and a REAL ID license. The legislation was a compromise that allows some people to meet federal requirements for licenses that can be used on airlines and at federal facilities, while giving the option of less stringent requirements for those who do not want to prove legal residency status.
But the effect for the license applicant or renewer is clear. The rules have changed, and different types of documentation are needed now.
The Driver’s Authorization Card (DAC) requires only that a person prove his or her identity, age and current address in New Mexico. The REAL ID, which meets federal standards, requires that people prove, among other things, their current physical addresses as well as their legal status as either U.S. citizens or legal residents. People are required to decide which license they want and comply with the new rules when renewing their licenses or applying for a new New Mexico license. Existing licenses will meet federal requirements [auth] until 2020, according to the Motor Vehicles Division.
Gray’s mother, a longtime New Mexico resident and a former bus driver for 30 years, was not able to renew her license after two tries. The first time, she was asked to return with a birth certificate. After making a trip back to her home on the other side of the city, she was told the second time that the birth certificate was not an official copy and she would have to obtain a certified copy from Texas.
She was not alone in her experience. Several people outside the Motor Vehicle Division office in north Roswell said that they were returning for their second or third attempt at renewing or obtaining a license.
A spokesperson for the state of New Mexico chose not to answer most questions about people’s experiences with licenses or how people are being informed about the new rules. He also declined to authorize an interview with a MVD manager.
Ben Cloutier, director of communications for the Department of Taxation and Revenue and the state Economic Development Department, said only that the MVD has issued 35,034 Real ID licenses since Nov. 14, with 1,075 being issued in Chaves County.
He also wrote, “Customers should refer to the website to ensure they are bringing the correct documentation for a new credential.”
The list of documents needed for both the REAL ID and the DAC are posted at mvd.newmexico.gov.
While some people admit they were simply unprepared or uninformed for their visit and praised the helpfulness of MVD staff, some also say that the requirements seemed onerous.
A young woman who wanted to be identified only as Yvette said that she lives at home with her mother and was told her proof of residency in the form of mail she received at the address was unacceptable. She was told that her mother would need to draw up a rental agreement for her, even if it showed that no rent is charged.
“I hate coming here,” she said. “It is always something.”
I.S. “Sonny” Schaeffer said that he thinks the problem is that the staff seemed to obstruct rather than problem-solve.
His 77-year-old wife had to return to the MVD seven times in one day to renew her license, he said — coincidentally, the first effective date for the new law.
“I have to yield on the first time. She didn’t know what was needed,” he said.
But the situation became, in his opinion, unacceptable when she was told that a medical form filled out by her doctor was incomplete because not all boxes were checked. Later she was told that a doctor’s written explanations on the form instead of checked boxes would not suffice. She said his wife speaks loudly because she is hard of hearing and was told by MVD staff that her attitude was a problem.
“Sometimes it might be necessary to do a second trip” because a person isn’t informed or prepared, Schaeffer said, “but the balance of it is that they are not willing to be helpful in explaining or they seem to have an attitude that says, ‘We aren’t going to move an inch for you.’”
While some people’s experience with MVD staff might be the stuff of nightmares, others say the problem is not the staff.
Debora Terrazas also had to make two trips to get her REAL ID license, but she thought the experience went well.
”When I came in to get it before my birthday, they let me know what I needed. They gave me a pamphlet,” she said. “But I am from California, so it usually takes hours. I have been here twice and it has been pretty quick each time.”
People needing to renew or obtain a REAL ID license or a Driver’s Authorization Card should prepare weeks in advance.
Visit an MVD office to obtain the list of needed documents or visit the website. In some cases, people may need to obtain certified copies of documents from out-of-state entities and will need to arrange to have utilities, rental agreements or bills that indicate their current physical addresses placed in their names. A talk with MVD staff well in advance of the license renewal date also might be warranted if special circumstances, such as vision or medical issues or unique residency situations, are involved.
Staff writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, firstname.lastname@example.org.