NEW MEXICO AHEAD OF THE CURVE:
KEEP ALL DRIVERS LICENSED
Compiled by Somos Un Pueblo Unido–January 2014
In 2003, community and faith groups, victims’ rights advocates, and law enforcement officials came together to promote a law requiring undocumented immigrant drivers to apply for a license. Since then, about 90,000 immigrants have successfully applied, taking the eye, written and road exams, registering their vehicles, and purchasing auto insurance. Some politicians have repeatedly tried to repeal the law. This would have disastrous consequences for public safety in New Mexico. Other states, meanwhile, have started to follow our lead.
The verdict is in: licensing all qualified drivers is good public policy
New Mexico is ahead of the national trend
Citing public safety concerns, eight other states, Puerto Rico, and Washington DC passed laws similar to New Mexico’s in 2013 (CA, CO, CT, IL, MD, NV, OR, and VT). They did this with strong support from Democrats, Republicans, and law enforcement agencies.
Licensing immigrants improves public safety
- Immigrants are more likely to stay or render aid at the scene of an accident and exchange insurance information.
- Immigrants are more likely to cooperate with police when being cited for moving violations, make court appearances, and pay fines for traffic violations.
- Victims and witness are more likely to call the police and participate in investigations. Victims also need a valid ID to go to court and request restraining orders.
Strengthens efforts to prevent DWI’s and underage drinking
- All immigrants under 25 must pass a DWI prevention course and exam before applying for a driver’s license.
- The state can now keep track of immigrants’ DWI violations, sentencing compliance, revocations, etc.
- Since 2003, New Mexico has seen a big decrease in alcohol-related crashes, injuries, and deaths.
- Alcohol and tobacco vendors can more accurately determine a person’s age using a state issued drivers’ license rather than foreign documents.
Provides important tools for law enforcement and supports officer safety
- During stops or investigations, police can quickly identify immigrants and check their record without having to examine documents in foreign languages. This makes officers safer and more efficient.
- Local, state and federal law enforcement can track outstanding warrants, repeat offenders, child support delinquents, and citations of individuals who do not have social security numbers.
- All law enforcement, including federal immigration agents, can access MVD records to obtain photos, information, and last known addresses for individuals with outstanding arrest warrants.
Benefits the economy
- The uninsured motorist rate has decreased from 21% in 2003 to about 9% today, saving all New Mexicans in insurance premiums.
- Immigrants without socials contributed well over $25 million to MVD in license and registration fees.
- In order to obtain an ITIN, an immigrant must file their federal income taxes. Immigrants also use the ITIN to pay state income taxes, contributing millions to New Mexico’s tax base.
Real ID Act; No Threat to New Mexicans
- In December 2013, the Department of Homeland Security postponed implementation of the Real ID Act for individuals yet again until further review no sooner than 2016.
- The federal government will continue to accept New Mexico drivers’ licenses to board commercial flights.
- Some states that have been certified REAL ID compliant even though they’ve passed laws to license undocumented immigrants (CO, CT, MD, UT, & VT).