Saturday, February 4, 2012

New Mexico's Driver's License Mess

Under our state's previous governor, Bill Richardson, our state legislature was talked into passing a law allowing driver's licenses to be issued to illegal aliens (also known as undocumented workers or undocumented immigrants). Part of the argument was that these folks needed to be able to drive legitimately, to get to their jobs. Another part was that they needed driver's licenses so they would buy auto insurance.

New Mexico thus became one of only two states that issue driver's licenses to illegal aliens. (Washington is the other. Utah issues driving permits that are not otherwise usable for identification.) And that means New Mexico driver's licenses are not valid forms of identification under the terms of the Real ID Act. That means that, once the US starts enforcing that act's terms, New Mexicans will need something more — like a US passport — to be allowed to board a train or an airplane, or to enter a federal building.

How well has the Richardson bill worked? Not very well, it seems. Several studies have shown the uninsured motorist problem to be very nearly as bad as it was before. In addition, there has been case after case exposed — and a number of them prosecuted — in which criminal gangs brought illegal aliens from multiple countries into New Mexico (usually to Albuquerque) from other states and got them New Mexico driver's licenses using fraudulent documents to fulfill the New Mexico residency requirement. Many of these folks certainly went back to where they were really living, and used their New Mexico licenses to obtain valid licenses there. I'd bet there are also other activities the criminal gangs find these licenses useful for that haven't hit the newspapers yet. And maybe some that have — like the drug smuggling by the Sinaloa drug cartel for which 15 men, including Albuquerque firefighter Steve Chavez, have now been arrested.

Our state's current governor, Susana Martinez, made repealing the illegal aliens' driver's license law a major part of her campaign for office. She won with it, and polls indicate that more than 70% of New Mexico's citizens agree with her on this issue.

Governor Martinez tried to get a repeal bill through the legislature last year. The House of Representatives supported the repeal, but the Senate refused. She tried to get a repeal bill through the legislature's special session (called mainly for redistricting), but the Senate balked again.

The legislature is back in session now, and the repeal attempt is being made again. A House committee has passed the repeal bill, and it is expected the full House will agree. But it is also expected that the Senate will kill the attempt once more.

But there is a new element this time. People in Albuquerque have reported, based on information from their relatives still in Mexico, that the members of the New Mexico Senate have been threatened by the Mexican cartels and told not to allow the repeal bill to pass. I haven't seen a confirmation of this yet, but it's certainly plausible — particularly in view of the confirmed cartel activity here. Whether this specific element of information is confirmed or not, there are clearly connections among New Mexico driver's licenses, Mexican drug cartels, and their activities in New Mexico — and elsewhere around the United States.

I'm with the 70% of New Mexicans. Our state's illegal alien licensing law must be repealed.

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