Being Legal in New Mexico

I was in town recently, trying for the fifth time to renew my driver’s license. Rejected, again. On the first attempt, I learned that NM has decided to up the ante for regular folks, and you can no longer go into the NM MVD office and get a driver’s license based on the fact that you simply needed to renew the old one. New Mexico was one of the states, in a frenzy of political correctness and deference to illegal aliens, that passed a new law to give driver’s licenses to people they knew were in the state illegally. 

But in the aftermath, they had fights about it in the state legislature about how to make up for the debacle they had created by causing all New Mexico drivers licenses to be suspect – because the TSA would no longer recognize them as legal identification for purposes of boarding a plane. These legislators, in an even more brilliant move, decided to fix it by making all of the legal citizens of New Mexico prove to them that we are legal citizens. They still give our old licenses to illegals, but now us regular citizens have to prove our citizenship, and that we are not criminals, in order to get a driver’s license that will qualify for identification so we can ride on planes, trains, and other public conveyance. And apparently, the illegals do not have to prove squat to get a driver’s license.

I came home from that unsuccessful but informative mission, and dug through my files, using the information sheet the lady gave me, and collected even more stuff than she needed to prove who I was. Then I made three empty trips with papers in hand, on weekdays, during business hours, to get my nearly expired license replaced, with her out of the office for no explained reason – just papers posted on the door saying the office was closed on that day and several other dates, some in print from a printer, some added by hand with a sharpie, as if in afterthought. I managed to hit three of those days, as it turned out, and the three trips were each 70 miles. Oh well, we are used to that in these parts. 

On my fifth foray I took the following information about myself:

  • U. S. passport
  • Social Security card
  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage License (this, as she explained, was to legitimize my social security card if my name had changed, and it had)
  • A bank statement (required)
  • A utility bill
  • Property tax bill from my county
  • Current driver’s license

Upon presentation of said documents I was rejected. Reasons:

  • My old social security card did not have the same legal name as the passport, and even though I had the marriage license to show legal reason for it –- she said I would have to go get a new social security card.  As if it is easy to get a new social security card. When I remarried in 1996 my husband took it upon himself to get me a new social security card. They misspelled my name, and it took me five years to get it cleared up – the social security people did not notice there were two of me with the same number and remarkably similar names. It took several phone calls and two trips to their office, 150 miles away to finally get it straightened out. So, where is that new card?  I don’t know and have been afraid to start the process over. In my experience, it is not easy to get a new social security card.
  • I tried to switch from the passport to the birth certificate for one of my documents. She said it would not work now that I had already used the passport.  She was not interested in the birth certificate. Admittedly, I could have misunderstood this part of the lady’s explanation, but she said that since I first handed her my passport for ID instead of the birth certificate, the social security card had to match it exactly.  Still scratching my head about that. I suppose this only happens to women, since we are the ones who change our names – so I guess this only happens to half of us. 
  • The utility bill did not have my street address, just my mailing address, so it did not qualify, (street addresses in rural NM did not exist until the big push to give everyone a street address in the wake of 9/11). So none of my old accounts include my street address, and my street address is not my legal mailing address (the local post office pushed back when street addresses started showing up instead of the PO box numbers, and refused to deliver mail that did not have the legal mailing address). She suggested I contact my electric company and have them change my address, so she could use it for purposes of identification – as if that would be no problem and was a reasonable suggestion.
  • My old driver’s license, which could have been my ID, also did not qualify, since it could have been given to an illegal.
  • At this point, my head was beginning to throb. 
  • My bank statement also did not have my street address, same reason as the utility bill. In fact, my bank and electric company have been the same since 1972, and my accounts with them active the whole time. My street address did not exist until 2005. 
  • The tax bill also did not have my street address in the mailing address, but did have a legal description of my land, along with my street address in the description -- that does not count, she said. It must include the street address in the mailing address that was used to send it to me to be valid as proof that I live in New Mexico.
  • According to her, I had nothing to prove I lived in New Mexico. I cannot help but wonder if it would be okay for me to not file and pay taxes here.

At each explanation, and each rejection, she swallowed hard and apologized, and I knew it was not her fault. But I admit to a bit of a meltdown, telling her I was livid, that I knew it was not her fault, but that I had been in Hidalgo County for 45 years now, and in New Mexico my whole life, and that I was being asked to prove it to an agency that knows it full well already. She said she understood, but there was nothing she could do. Perhaps I could have been kinder. She is not my enemy. 

It occurred to me when I left, steaming, that she could also have looked on her MVD records and found that my first driver’s license was given to me in Las Cruces, NM, at age 15. Pretty unlikely that same license number, with all my names, under the same number, for the last forty-eight years, did not belong to the same old, tired New Mexico citizen -- they probably even have all the lousy pictures of me through all the years on file. I’d like to see the terrorist that could pull that off…

On a happier note, I have remembered that she explained, the first time I went in, that just to operate a car, I can get a regular license that will not get me on a plane, but is legal to drive with -- just like the illegals use!  Just like my old one.  So that is what I will get!  I have a passport for other stuff, and I do not think I will travel by public conveyance much anymore anyway. The business of proving I am not a criminal everywhere I go is getting too annoying. 

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