Undocumented immigrants in New Mexico still have the right to get driver’s licenses, after Republican Gov. Susana Martinez failed for a third time to repeal the 2003 law authorizing the issuance of licenses to people without Social Security numbers.
The state legislature ended its session Thursday rejecting a bill to undo the 2003 measure.
The controversial bill was approved by the lower house, but was later defeated by the Democratic-majority Senate, which instead passed alternative legislation imposing harsher penalties on people who commit fraud when applying for a license and reduces the length of time the document is valid.
For now, New Mexico remains one of the three states where undocumented migrants can obtain driver’s licenses.
“It’s a great victory for the immigrant community,” Marcela Diaz, director of the organization Somos un Pueblo Unido (We Are a United People), told Efe from Santa Fe, the state capital.
For the activist, the message being send is very clear - that New Mexico is a “friendlier” state toward immigrants and it won’t play games with public safety.
“This has been a battle like David and Goliath, because the funds we have don’t compare with the funds the governor used to promote this bill,” Diaz said.
Martinez is promoting an anti-immigrant political agenda that is part of a national drive by the Republican Party, according to Diaz, who said that while immigration is a controversial subject that divides communities, up to now the extremists haven’t achieved their goal in New Mexico.
“What the state Senate did was important, because it said that if the point is to prevent fraud and protect public safety, it’s possible to pass reasonable regulations and statutes to combat fraud,” Diaz said.
“What we want to do is protect immigrant families who live here, work here, and whose kids study here,” she said.
Martinez has said she will veto any bill that would continue to grant driver’s licenses to the undocumented.
Diaz believes that the governor “took off her mask” when she talked of vetoing any kind of agreement, since what she wants is “all or nothing.”
“We see that the governor is not interested in public safety - this is an immigration issue, it is definitely an attack on our families,” Diaz said.
Last July, Martinez announced a program aimed at checking the addresses of 10,000 suspected undocumented immigrants who have obtained driver’s licenses in New Mexico.
The Republican governor says that licenses have turned New Mexico into a “magnet” for the undocumented, who come from other states for the sole purpose of obtaining a driver’s license.
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