Media 2013/2014

 

KLUZ News

Licencias de conducir para indocumentados

2/10/2014 6:06 PM

Por tercer año consecutivo, la propuesta de ley para prohibir licencias de manejar a los inmigrantes indocumentados ha sido detenida en la legislatura estatal.

Este fin de semana los legisladores demócratas votaron en contra de una propuesta de ley apoyada por la gobernadora Martinez y presentada por el republicano Paul Pacheco la cual permitiría temporalmente otorgar licencias a cierto tipo de jóvenes inmigrantes indocumentados a cambio de no proporcionar licencias a aquellos extranjeros sin la documentación adecuada. Cabe mencionar que hasta el momento ninguna propuesta de ley ha sido aprobada en la legislatura estatal.

Para ver el video, hace click aqui.

Bill to repeal DL law stalls in House committee

By Milan Simonich
The New Mexican, Feb. 8, 2014

A bill to take driver’s licenses away from about 85,000 New Mexico residents who do not have proof of immigration status stalled again Saturday in a tie vote after a heated debate in the House Labor and Human Resources Committee.Four Democrats on the committee voted to block the bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Paul Pacheco of Albuquerque.

The measure, calling for repeal of a 2003 law that enables New Mexico residents who are in the country unlawfully to receive a driver’s license, is now stuck in the committee and unlikely to make it through the Legislature for the fourth consecutive year.

House Speaker Kenny Martinez, who sits on the labor committee, led the opposition to Pacheco’s bill. Martinez said the measure would strip driver’s licenses from nine classes of legal immigrants.

“Is it your intent to take away driver’s licenses from people who have lawful status?” he asked.

Pacheco had a tart reply: “I think you’re being selective in what you’re reading.”

Martinez said the bill was fueled by xenophobia and brought for political purposes, not to solve any problem.

Pacheco, a retired police officer, said he resented those characterizations. He said politics had nothing to do with his decision to carry the bill.

Pacheco could still try to move the bill through the full House of Representatives by seeking an extraordinary floor vote. He attempted that maneuver last year, but it failed. He said he was uncertain what his next step would be. But he was pessimistic that his bill could clear the state Senate, even if he gets it through the House of Representatives.

“My gut feeling is probably not,” he said.

Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, campaigned hard in 2010 to repeal the licensing law and has pushed for the change in every legislative session since.

Pacheco’s repeal bill would grant provisional driver’s licenses to young people who have a lawful presence in the country under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Those residents now qualify for full-fledged licenses.

Pacheco said he believes the state has to repeal the licensing law to curb fraud in motor vehicle field offices and to make sure New Mexico can comply with the Real ID Act, a federal law that sets requirements for state driver’s licenses and identification cards to be accepted as ID for official purposes, such as boarding a plane.

Demesia Padilla, secretary of the state Taxation and Revenue Department, testified that a failure to meet requirements of the Real ID Act by Oct. 10 would be costly to New Mexico residents. She said they would need passports, not New Mexico driver’s licenses, to board airplanes.

Opponents of the repeal bill, including the ACLU of New Mexico, said Padilla was wrong to presume that the Real ID Act eventually will be enforced. Implementation of the measure, approved by Congress in 2005, has continually been delayed. As of January, only 21 states were in compliance.

“Over half the states in the country are not in compliance with this unpopular and unfunded mandate,” said Steven Allen of the ACLU. “It is inconceivable that the federal government would follow through on their threats to ban half the country from flying on an airplane or entering a federal building.”

In December, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it would not enforce Real ID requirements to board airplanes until 2016 at the earliest.

Speaker Martinez said New Mexico could meet all requirements of the Real ID law without taking away the driver’s licenses of immigrants. He said just such a bill was introduced last year by Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, and that he would be happy to revive it and make sure it was approved before the legislative session ends Feb. 20.

In his most fiery speech on the licensing law, Speaker Martinez said proponents of the repeal had “manufactured a crisis” over driver’s licenses instead of simply crafting a law to meet Real ID requirements.

Certain states that issue driver’s licenses to people who do not have proof of immigration status already are in compliance with the Real ID Act, he said.

Rep. Miguel Garcia, the labor committee chairman, was the original sponsor of the licensing law for immigrants. He said it had served the state well for a decade and should stay on the books.

Immigrant laborers are vital to the state’s oil, dairy and farm industries, Garcia said. The licensing law allows them to drive to work without fear, and their names and addresses are contained in police databases, improving public safety, he said.

Numerous police organizations, however, testified in favor of repealing the licensing law. An exception was the Santa Fe Police Department, which supports it.

Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, said the licensing law was supposed to increase the number of insured motorists in New Mexico, but it has not done so. The state remains among the worst statistically for motorists driving without car insurance, she said.

Defenders of the law counter that foreign nationals account for only about 5 percent of the 1.6 million people who have a New Mexico driver’s license. They say the problem of uninsured drivers includes plenty of U.S. citizens.

Just before the four-hour hearing concluded with the tie vote, Pacheco said he was representing the public’s will.

“I get phone calls and emails every day from people who want the law repealed,” he said. “… This is about trying to do the right thing.”

But Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a Santa Fe-based immigrant rights group, said the repeal bill ran out of steam long ago.

“This is a dead issue. It’s time the governor and our legislators move on,” she said.

Contact Milan Simonich at 986-3080 or msimonich@sfnewmexican.com. Follow his Ringside Seat blog at santafenewmexican.com.

 

Immigrant driver’s license repeal stalls in House committee

By James Monteleone
Journal Staff Writer, Feb. 8, 2014

SANTA FE — The latest effort in the Legislature to end the practice of issuing New Mexico driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally stalled Saturday in a House committee on a tied vote.
House Bill 127, sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, and backed by Gov. Susana Martinez, would eliminate the driver’s licenses issued to most of those immigrants, who have been eligible to get them under a 2003 New Mexico law.
The House Bill 127 change, however, would make an exception for immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children and granted a deferred immigration action status, Pacheco said. For those individuals, the state would issue a new, second-tier license that would be marked as “not for federal identification” and would have to be renewed annually.
Following more than three hours of debate in the House Labor and Human Resources Committee on Saturday, the proposal hung up on a party-line 4-4 tie that prevented the bill from advancing. Four Democrats voted to table the bill and four Republicans opposed the tabling.
Pacheco said he wasn’t sure whether supporters of his proposed driver’s license repeal would try to bring the bill before the full House, where Republican leaders think it has enough votes to pass.
Republicans have argued the illegal immigrant licenses prevent New Mexico from complying with the federal REAL ID Act, which in 2005 established national requirements for state-issued licenses to be used to enter federal buildings or board commercial airplanes.
Republicans say that issuing the licenses also has made New Mexico a hotbed for document fraud and trafficking of immigrants attempting to get identification that can be used in other states.
House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants, said the Legislature should focus on creating a new and enhanced REAL ID-compliant identification card for those who qualify under the federal law rather than attempting to stop thousands of immigrants in New Mexico from legally driving.
Legislation that would have created an enhanced New Mexico REAL ID-compliant identification card was introduced last year by Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, but never advanced.
Martinez said he would endorse a similar effort this session.
“I think we can do a REAL ID-compliant bill and get it through the Legislature in the next two weeks, but it can’t be a trojan horse to have the (driver’s license) debate again,” Martinez said.

Workers rally in support of state’s law allowing immigrant driver’s licenses

Jan. 30, 2014

By Milan Simonich, The New Mexican

They say they do the hardest jobs, sweaty work in oilfields and dairies that Americans will not touch.

That is why Arturo Donlucas and Angel Escarcega want the state Legislature to continue granting New Mexico driver’s licenses to people who do not have proof of immigration status.

“They like the Mexican hand workers because they come in early and work late every day,” said Donlucas, 45, employed at a dairy in Lea County for 12 years.

American businesses rely on immigrant laborers, so legislators should let them keep their driver’s licenses, he said.

He and Escarcega, who makes his living as a laborer in oilfields near Lovington, were among more than 100 blue-collar workers from 11 counties who assembled Wednesday at the state Capitol. All of them defended the law.

Even immigrants in the country unlawfully can obtain a New Mexico driver’s license based on two factors: They must provide proof of their identity, and they must live in the state.

The law has been on the books since 2003, but it has been steeped in controversy for the last three years.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in 2010 campaigned on repealing it. Unsuccessful thus far, Martinez is making her fifth attempt to strike the law in the legislative session now underway.

“The Legislature should do what the overwhelming majority of New Mexicans are demanding — repeal this dangerous law,” Martinez said in her speech to open the session.

Majority Democrats in the Legislature say the law is humane and that the immigrants who receive driver’s licenses keep the economy humming.

State Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, is again sponsoring the governor’s bill to repeal the law. He said he was empathetic with hardworking immigrants but not persuaded that they should have driver’s licenses if they entered the country illegally.

“I understand how they feel. I’m not the bogeyman,” Pacheco said. “But we need to become compliant with the Real ID Act.”

Pacheco said the national identification system will be implemented someday, and that New Mexico must obey it to avoid financial penalties and chaos. Martinez for years has said that state driver’s licenses would not be acceptable identification to board airplanes under the federal Real ID Act.

Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a Santa Fe group that wants the licensing law to remain intact, said the governor and Pacheco were using scare tactics.

“Only 21 states are in full compliance with Real ID, and some of them give driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants,” Diaz said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security repeatedly has delayed enforcement of the Real ID Act. It recently issued a new schedule of deadlines, but enforcement at airports would not begin until at least 2016.

Diaz said a rebellion against the federal law by two dozen states means Real ID may never take effect.

State Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, said he sides with the governor because the New Mexico licensing law encourages fraud.

Illegal immigrants from Poland traveled from Chicago to New Mexico in hopes of obtaining driver’s licenses, Gallegos said. He cited the Poles’ attempt at fraud as just one example of problems caused by the law.

But Gallegos, who works as a superintendent of a road construction company, said he agreed that immigrants were critical to New Mexico’s labor force.

“Not many people want to do asphalt work at 340 degrees,” he said.

He said his company generally hired Mexican nationals with work visas, then tried to help them maintain a lawful presence in New Mexico so they could continue working.

At the rally, Leticia Mendoza, who owns an Italian restaurant in Hagerman, said she had a question for the governor.

“How does taking licenses away from immigrants help people like me start and grow small businesses? … We need a vision for New Mexico, not fear-mongering,” she said.

Mendoza, 44, said she became a U.S. citizen in 2005. She said she and her husband employ about 15 people at their restaurant.

Manifestacion para Defender los Derechos de Todos

KLUZ News

Jan. 29, 2014 11:11 PM

Cientos de personas se unen en el capitolio del país para continuar con la lucha de los derechos de los inmigrantes, especialmente para mantener las licencias de conducir sin importar el estatus legal.

Transcripción (CC) –

(Entravision) Albuquerque, N.M.-En este día de acción del inmigrante, cientos al rededor de Nuevo México se unieron por cuarta ocasión en el capitolio del estado para enviarle un claro mensaje a la gobernadora Susana Martinez, “Mantener las licencias de conducir para todos, sin importar su estatus legal”

CECILIA LEDESMA
CLOVIS, NM
“Venimos apoyar a las licencias de manejar”

RAMON LEDESSMA
CLOVIS, NM
“Porque las necesitamos para ir a trabajar para ir a llevar a los hijos a la escuela, al doctor.”

MANUEL IBARRA
SACERDOTE
“Que nadie quede fuera, que todos estemos incluidos, que todos formemos parte de una sola familia.”

Un claro mensaje para la Gobernadora Martinez, de más de 300 personas de 12 diferentes condados a través de Nuevo México, que pudieron estar presente en esta manifestación pacifica apoyando a toda la comunidad inmigrante. Ya que en los últimos cuatro años, la gobernadora ha querido eliminar la ley de más de una década, que permite a los inmigrantes indocumentados obtener una licencia de conducir, ya que de acuerdo a ella, es por la seguridad de las personas de Nuevo México, pero para los pro-inmigrantes, la seguridad esta en la licencias.

RAMON LEDESMA
CLOVIS
“Primeramente queremos que nos siga apoyando por favor a que no nos quiten las licencias, somos una fuente importante para la economía del estado, nosotros queremos que la gobernadora se enfoque en otras cosas y no en quitarnos la licencias.”

GEORGE DODGE
LEGISLADOR (D)
Tienen un buen argumento, muy fuerte, no he visto la propuesta pero cuando lo veamos decidiremos en este caso.

De acuerdo a este grupo de manifestante, la gobernadora debería de enfocarse en aumentar las creaciones de empleo, aumentar el salario mínimo, la educación y el bienestar de los niños, ya que Nuevo México carece de esto. En tan solo este día de acción del inmigrante, Somos un Pueblo Unido junto con otros 10 grupos afiliados, han logrado juntar cientos de firmas para su petición, y continuar con las licencias de conducir.

LINDA LOPEZ
SENADORA (D)
“Pero primeramente esta legislación que la gobernadora va a presentar otra vez no, mi voto a sido no y va a continuar hacer no.”

Ahora a estos manifestantes solo les queda esperar que las licencias de conducir sigan siendo brindadas para todos

MARINA PIÑA
SOMOS UN PUEBLO
Creo que los legisladores cada día se sorprenden mas, del poder de la comunidad Latina, la comunidad inmigrante y del interés que tenemos de venir desde nuestras comunidades y manejar hasta a veces cinco horas de camino para llegar aquí hablar con ellos.”

A pesar de que 10 estados más incluyendo Washington DC, han pasado leyes similares como las de Nuevo México, Martinez continuara con su lucha así como la de la comunidad inmigrante, a la que llegara a un fin, hasta que termine esta legislatura.

To see the T.V. report, click here.

Immigrants lobby to keep driver’s license law

By BARRY MASSEY, Associated Press

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Immigrant workers urged lawmakers on Wednesday to focus on improving New Mexico’s economy rather than considering Republican Gov. Susana Martinez‘s proposal to stop the state from issuing driver’s licenses to immigrants living in the country illegally.

Members of an immigrant rights group brought 5,000 petitions to the Capitol and planned to deliver them to lawmakers and the governor along with 100 plastic hard hats signed by immigrant oil field workers and more than 700 small milk cartons with photos of immigrant families.

“We are tired of being attacked, and we don’t want to be the victim of political bullying anymore,” Arturo Donlucas of Lovington, who’s worked in a diary for 12 years, said at a news conference.

He spoke in Spanish and his comments were translated into English at what organizers billed as an “immigrant day of action” at the Capitol.

The governor’s license proposal has failed in the Democratic-controlled Legislature since Martinez took office in 2011, but the governor wants lawmakers to again consider it during their 30-day session.

As Martinez has pushed to restrict licenses for immigrants in New Mexico, a growing number of other states are moving in the opposite direction.

Eight states, including California, Illinois, Nevada and Colorado, enacted laws last year to grant immigrants the privilege to drive. However, some of those states haven’t started issuing licenses.

Unlike a New Mexico driver’s license, the newly enacted driving privilege cards and licenses in other states can’t be used for identification, such as boarding an airliner or entering a federal building

New Mexico and Washington have the broadest policies in the country because the same license granted to a U.S. citizen is available to immigrants, including those here illegally.

Rep. Paul Pacheco, an Albuquerque Republican, is sponsoring a bill backed by the governor that would allow temporary driver’s licenses for certain immigrant youths but stop the state from granting licenses to other foreign nationals without proper immigration documents.

The temporary licenses would be for immigrants covered by a federal policy deferring deportation. However, those licenses couldn’t be used as identification to meet federal requirements, such as at airports.

The current licensing system has been in place since 2003.

“The right thing is to repeal it,” Pacheco said in an interview. “It’s a public safety issue.”

At the news conference outside the Capitol, oil field worker Angel Escarcega of Lovington said he and his immigrant co-workers need driver’s licenses for their jobs.

Lawmakers who support the governor’s proposal, he said, are “letting the politics of fear and divisiveness get in the way of doing what’s right for our local community.”

Hagerman restaurant owner Leticia Mendoza, who recently became a citizen, said, “How does taking licenses away from immigrants help people like me start and grow small businesses, create more jobs and jumpstart my local economy?”

“Rural communities are dying in New Mexico. We need a vision for New Mexico, not fear mongering,” she said.

 

Immigrant driver’s licenses an issue once again for state legislature

By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Created: 01/29/2014 4:48 PM 

The New Mexico State Capitol is once again turning into a battlefield for the issue of driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

This is the fifth time Gov. Susana Martinez has demanded that state lawmakers dump the 2003 law that allows licenses for people here illegally, and for the fifth time it looks like the numbers in the legislature just don’t add up to make that happen.

About one hundred demonstrators rallied outside the Capitol on Wednesday, armed with 700 milk cartons, each one bearing the Zia symbol and a picture of an immigrant family that relies on somebody having a New Mexico license. The crowd heard from a Lea County dairy farm worker who said he couldn’t work without his license. Ditto for another man who works in the oil fields near Hobbs. Protest organizer Marina Pina said the issue is a waste of time in the 30 day legislative session.

“We do not want our legislators to focus on licenses,” Pina said. “Taking our licenses is not sensible. It would increase racial profiling in our communities.”

Gov. Martinez fired the first shot in this fight on day one of the session in her State of the State Address.

“It’s time to act,” Martinez proclaimed in her speech. “The legislature should do what the overwhelming majority of New Mexicans are demanding – repeal this dangerous law!”

The governor may well have the votes to eke out yet another narrow win in the House of Representatives, but she surely does not in the state Senate.

To view the T.V. report, click here.

 

Dairy, oil workers from southeast speak against driver’s license repeal

By  | Jan. 29, 2014

Posted: 3:10 pm

Dairy and oil-and-gas workers from southeastern New Mexico spoke today at a news conference at the Capitol in support of the state law that allows immigrants who are not here legally to get driver’s licenses.

They said undocumented workers are important to the oil and agriculture industries in New Mexico, and they objected to the repeated attempts by Gov. Susana Martinez to get the Legislature to repeal the law.

Immigrant rights supporters from 11 counties attended the “Immigrant Day of Action.” They delivered yellow hard hats signed by workers, and milk cartons decorated with photos of working families, to legislators.

This is the fourth year Martinez has promoted the repeal bill, which she calls a public safety issue. She says the issuance of licenses to illegal immigrants has invited fraudulent activity

 

Governor makes plea for reform over the status quo

By Steve Terrell / The New Mexican

Posted:   01/22/2014 07:31:49 AM MST

SANTA FE – Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, speaking on the opening day of the New Mexico Legislature, made a plea for bipartisanship at the end of her State of the State address. However, many of the issues she brought up in her 47-minute speech already have attracted wide opposition from Democrats.

“Let’s continue to choose reform over the status quo,” the governor said.

“With great challenges come great opportunities,”she said. “To seize these opportunities, we must come together — Republicans and Democrats, the Legislature and the governor. … While we won’t agree on everything, and there will certainly be spirited debates, I am committed to working with you to find common ground, just like we have in the past, because the people of New Mexico deserve nothing less.”

But by the reactions of Democratic legislators both during and after the speech, it appeared that common ground might be hard to find on many key elements of Martinez’s agenda — especially on issues that have been fought in previous sessions, such as the proposed repeal of the law that allows the state to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, and educational issues like Martinez’s third-grade reading initiative, teacher evaluations and merit pay.

As often is the case with the president’s State of the Union address to Congress, during Martinez’s speech, the only lawmakers who responded to the obvious applause lines on controversial issues were members of her own party. Almost all Democrats remained quiet as their GOP colleagues applauded.

Asked about this, Public Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera said, “From the vantage point of folks clapping or not clapping, I think shame on us as adults if we can’t come together and find the compromise that we need to set our kids up for success.”

Some of the five Democrats who want Martinez’s job sent emails and tweets criticizing some of Martinez’s proposals. Less than 10 minutes after the end of the speech, the gubernatorial campaign of Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, sent potential supporters a lengthy email saying, “What disappoints me the most is how similar each speech has been year after year.”

Also quick to respond to the governor’s speech was Marcela Díaz of the immigrant rights group Somos Un Pueblo Unido.

In her speech, Martinez said, “I’ve put forward a strong compromise to repeal this law and still allow driving privileges for [young immigrants brought to the country as children]. It’s time to act. The Legislature should do what the overwhelming majority of New Mexicans are demanding — repeal this dangerous law.”

Diaz responded in a written release: “The governor is doing a terrible disservice to New Mexicans by forcing the driver’s license issue for a fifth time while our state falls deeper into poverty and our children continue to suffer the tragic consequences of a broken education and child welfare system. It’s unconscionable for the governor to put her own political cash cow ahead of New Mexico’s families. She is wasting legislators’ time on this non-issue when they should be keenly focused on solving the state’s real problems.”

Diaz pointed out that eight states last year passed legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to drive. Those states are Colorado, Nevada, Maryland, Vermont, California, Connecticut, Oregon and Illinois. Also, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., passed similar laws.

Read the full article here.

N.M. governor’s high-profile bills likely to heat up legislative session

By Milan Simonich, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Updated:   01/20/2014 04:37:31 PM MST

SANTA FE — Money will not be the only battleground issue when the New Mexico Legislature begins its 30-day session on Tuesday.

Two contentious bills will pit Republican Gov. Susana Martinez against majority Democrats for the fourth time in four years.Martinez favors a bill mandating retention of certain third-graders who struggle with reading.

She also will push again for the repeal of a 10-year-old law that allows people without proof of immigration status to obtain New Mexico driver’s licenses.She faces a fight from Democratic legislators who say neither of Martinez’s initiatives would improve life in New Mexico.

In addition, the most-watched and controversial hearing of the session will focus on one of Martinez’s appointees, Hanna Skandera of the Public Education Department.

Skandera has overseen the state’s 830 public schools since January 2011, but she still has not received a confirmation vote from the Senate Rules Committee or the full 42-member Senate.Martinez has criticized Senate Democrats, especially Rules Committee Chairwoman Linda Lopez, for stalling on Skandera’s confirmation vote.

Lopez, D-Albuquerque, also is running for governor. She said in an interview that Skandera will receive a vote this session. Lopez actually began Skandera’s confirmation hearing last year but then recessed it after 10 hours of testimony across three days. A Senate vote on Skandera probably would be close.

Democrats control the Senate 25-17. Skandera would need the votes of all the Republicans and at least four Democrats to be confirmed. A 21-21 tie would give Republican Lt. Gov. John Sanchez the deciding vote on her nomination.

Driver’s licenses have been a state controversy longer than Skandera has.Republicans say they have the votes to get the driver’s license repeal bill through the House of Representatives, but they are less optimistic about its prospects after that.

“Can it get out of the House? I think so, but as for the Senate, I don’t know,” said Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque.Bills to repeal the licensing law have twice in three years cleared the House of Representatives, where Democrats still have a 37-33 advantage.
Those bills never advanced in the Senate.

Last year, Democrats in the House of Representatives stopped the bill in a committee. Gentry then tried but failed to vault the bill through the full House.

Martinez in 2010 campaigned hard on the licensing law. She said issuing driver’s licenses to people in the country unlawfully creates security problems and breeds fraud at motor vehicle offices.

But Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said Martinez’s arguments had lost steam, especially because eight other states last year followed New Mexico’s lead by approving laws granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Two years ago, only New Mexico and Washington state had laws allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Proof of identity and state residency are required.

Utah has a similar system in which immigrants receive driving privilege cards.Martinez said New Mexico was on the wrong side of the national statistics.”It’s not that hard. Forty-eight states have figured it out,” she said in 2012.

But last year, Illinois approved a law similar to New Mexico’s. Soon after, seven other states and Washington, D.C., did the same. Colorado and California, the nation’s most populous state, were among them.

Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, is the perhaps most outspoken proponent of the licensing law. Garcia said it helps ordinary people who are contributing to the state’s economy. The lobbyist for New Mexico’s green chile industry once told legislators that all the harvesters are Mexican nationals, typically men in their 60s.

Garcia said the law enables hardworking people to lawfully drive to their job.Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, is another supporter of the law.

He said it actually improves public safety because those with driver’s licenses are listed in police databases and can easily be tracked. People without licenses will still drive but are more likely to flee if they are involved in an accident, Maestas said.

Law enforcement agencies largely have backed Martinez in her push for a repeal. But Santa Fe’s police chief and sheriff have broken ranks and supported the licensing law.Critics of the governor say her interest in driver’s licenses is out of balance with the state’s needs.

“Repealing the law is not going to help one child or create one job,” said Marcela Diaz of the Santa Fe-based immigrant rights group Somos Un Pueblo Unido.

Her organization has lobbied hard to keep the licensing law in place.The 50 Republicans in the House and Senate have been solid voting blocs for repealing the law. Gentry, the House Republican whip, said safety is compromised — not improved — by issuing driver’s licenses to those in the country unlawfully.

“Not a week goes by without some case of fraud at a motor vehicle office,” he said.A variety of proposals have been offered to reduce scams in which people from elsewhere try to obtain New Mexico driver’s licenses.

Diaz said yearly in-person driver’s license renewals for people without proof of immigration status would eliminate fraud.

Moreover, Egolf said, the fact that so many other states are issuing licenses to undocumented immigrants makes it less likely that people who live elsewhere will travel to New Mexico in hopes of getting a license by falsely claiming state residency.

To Egolf, the driver’s license issue is more about politics than public policy.”Every day we spend debating driver’s licenses is a day we don’t talk about the governor’s economic record or the inadequate staffing levels at the Children, Youth and Families Department,” he said.

Read the full article here.