New Mexico Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s third attempt to repeal a 2003 law that allows undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers licenses failed Thursday when the Democratic controlled legislature voted it down. The tea party-backed governor is trying to make good on her campaign promise to not just eliminate access to driver’s licenses but also revoke licenses that have already been given to non-citizens.
HB103, the bill backed by Martinez, passed the House earlier this month but failed to make it through the Senate. An alternative Senate bill, SB235, which would have tightened residency requirements but not repealed the 2003 law, passed the Senate. Governor Martinez, however, vowed to veto that Senate bill. New Mexico and Washington are the only states that issue driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status (Utah issues a driving certificate that can’t be used for identification).
Republican Governor Susana Martinez has repeatedly tried (and failed) to repeal the state’s nearly decade old driver’s license law. Last year, a state district judge halted on constitutional grounds Gov. Martinez’s costly campaign to “certify” the driver’s licenses of foreign nationals. A spokesman for Gov. Martinez claims the current law “leads to fraud, human trafficking, organized crime and significant security concerns.” Supporters of the law, however, say the current policy aids cooperation between immigrant communities and local police as well as reduces the number of unlicensed drivers.
In fact, an immigrant rights group, Somos un Pueblo Unido, recently reported that in a recent survey, 64% of New Mexicans support improving, not repealing, the current law—which is what the alternative Senate bill (SB235) sought to do. Senate bill (SB235) would have strengthened identity and residency requirements, required re-verification of documents, annual renewals, imposed fingerprint requirements and increased penalties for fraud. HB103 would have repealed the current law by requiring applicants to provide a Social Security number in order to receive a license.
Utah, Washington and New Mexico are the only states that allow residents to access driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.