ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — The approaching deadline for the federal REAL ID Act to take effect has sent a surge of New Mexicans to passport offices.
People worried that their New Mexico driver's licenses will no longer let them board airliners or enter federal buildings have booked up appointments well past the Jan. 15 deadline for states to comply with the law.
Individuals actually have nearly two more years. Then state IDs and driver's licenses that don't meet federal standards will not be allowed for airline travel and access to federal buildings.
New Mexico post offices are the only places to process applications for passports, and officials say yes, they're definitely seeing a spike.
Darlene Pool is among those rushing to get a passport. For her the concern is a trip to Colorado.
"I would have to get a passport to get back into New Mexico," Pool said.
That's Darlene's fear, but the January deadline for states won't affect individuals until December 2014.
Even so post offices that issue passports are booked weeks in advance.
"Being the sole provider for passports here we have seen an influx in the number of customers that are requesting passports in the last month," Barbara Wood of the Postal Service said.
According to the governor the biggest reason why New Mexico fails to comply with the federal act is because of the state law that grants driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
State legislators will again consider repealing that law in the upcoming legislative session.
In the meantime those wanting to get a passport quickly will find it's going to take some time.
"Here at the Manzano station the next available appointment is I believe Jan. 16th," Wood said.
Pool's passport won't be in for several weeks.
"I thought I'd rather be safe than sorry," she said.
A spokesperson for the Albuquerque Police Department said that as a precaution any APD employee who does not have a passport will not be scheduled for out-of-state travel.
Those employees will travel by car or train if necessary.
The deadline to comply with the federal act, which was passed in 2005, has been pushed back a number of times.
Some are expecting the federal Department of Homeland Security to extend it again.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.