After nearly a decade of debate over whether or not unauthorised immigrants should be permitted to have New Mexico driver’s licenses, federal law is forcing the question to the state’s legislature in a new way. Federal authorities say that New Mexico and five other states must adhere to federal REAL ID Act requirements or their residents will not be allowed to use driver’s licenses to board airplanes or enter federal facilities. The rules, which go into effect in 2018, are forcing a resolution to the issue of immigrant driver’s licenses.
New Mexico currently allows immigrants in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses, a policy that’s at odds with REAL ID. On Thursday, a Republican-sponsored bill to create a two-tiered system passed in committee and could head to the floor for a vote during New Mexico’s weeks-long legislative session. supporters consider it a compromise.
If passed, immigrants (and libertarians) who didn’t want to prove their immigration status could get “driving privilege cards” regardless of their immigration status. However, under the requirements of the bill spell out some dramatic differences:
-Expire every year
-Different color and design (by contrast, California's immigrant-eligible IDs are marked with only a subtle note: “federal limits apply”)
-Not valid for use as an ID outside of New Mexico
-Fingerprinting required for every application and renewal
New Mexico Community activists took to the capitol building on Monday to denounce the proposal, with some reportedly saying that they would prefer to have New Mexico IDs remain out of compliance with federal requirements. Others say that the bills adds unnecessary restrictions, past the requirements of REAL ID.
New Mexican activists have repeatedly criticized Latina Republican Gov. Susana Martinez for supporting the law, calling her everything from “racist,” denying of her Mexican heritage and worse. She’s even being compared to Donald Trump, despite calling that candidate’s remarks “horrible” last July.
One young activist called the Republican bill discriminatory, according to an activist group that organized the event.
— SomosUn Pueblo Unido (@Somosunpueblo) January 25, 2016
Public opinion is divided on the bill, with 56 percent of registered voters supporting in in a recent survey of 500 voters and a four point margin of error by Latino Decisions. Both supporters and opponents claiming that the citizens are on their side.
“New Mexicans have been very clear that they do not want undocumented immigrants to receive a state license,” says Andy Nunez, a bill sponsor, in a statement. “The law should have been repealed years ago. I hope that Democrats will compromise with us on this bill.”
— Javier Martínez (@JavierForNM) January 25, 2016
What do you think about the New Mexico driver’s licence bill? Is it a compromise that saves immigrant access to driver’s licences and citizen’s access to airports, or a weak attempt to ostracize and deport immigrants? You can read the full bill here. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.