N.M. Lawmakers Debate Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Immigrants

New Mexico's Democratic legislators and Republican governor are no closer to an agreement regarding the state's policy that allows undocumented residents to obtain a driver's license.
by | September 19, 2011

New Mexico's Democrats and Republic governor appear at an impasse over a state policy that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver's license, the Washington Times reports.

The logic behind the legislation, signed by Gov. Bill Richardson in 2003, was that it would force illegal residents to take a driving test. Drivers are also required to purchase auto insurance.

Democrats, who control both houses, say redistricting remains their top priority for the remainder of the legislative session. "The conventional wisdom is that the outright repeal failed in the regular session and it's not going to pass this time," longtime New Mexico political analyst and blogger Joe Monahan told the Times. "The governor even said that there's no consensus on the issue, which is code for you don't have the votes."

But after eight years, most polls show more than 70 percent of the state's residents oppose the policy, the Times reports. Gov. Susana Martinez has harped on at least seven charges of fraud against groups implicated in assisting undocumented residents to obtain licenses as an example of the law's unintended consequences.

The program's intended outcomes have also been called into question: a New Mexico State University study found that 25.7 of the state's drivers are still uninsured, the second highest figure in the United States.

Two other states – Utah and Washington – also do not require proof of citizenship or residency to acquire a driver's license. Utah's law is stricter, though, as its driving permit cannot be used as official identification.


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