Dozens of immigrants and supporters of their cause rallied at the state capitol today. They applauded the national movement by Congress and the President towards immigration reform, and they spoke in favor of New Mexico's law that grants driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.
They came from as far away as Belen to listen to lawmakers and authorities tout the momentum of immigration reform, including State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque:
"It really has changed. Since last year when we were on the defensive, fighting to hang onto what we had, now, two other states have changed their laws, 12 other states are planning to change their laws, The Congress has changed, the attitude in Washington has changed. The administration thinks we'll have immigration reform by the end of the year."
This week two legislative bills aimed at repealing the law granting licenses to undocumented drivers were tabled. At the rally this setback of repeal efforts caused a lot of cheering and sign-waving. Yanelli Parra's sign read "No U-Turns on Public Safety:"
"We all deserve to have a driver's license. It's good to identify people, and you know, it's not like we're not going to drive if we don't have a driver's license."
Parra also points out you can't get insurance without a driver's license. Mirna Lazcano says she wants to follow the laws of her adopted country, and she's studying English to take her GED.
"I need my license to be able to go out and drive with confidence and take my daughters to school, to go to work, to take my girls to the doctor when they need to go."
Santa Fe's Chief of Police Ray Rael, who also spoke at the rally, points out that he's seen fewer hit and run accidents and more drivers with insurance since the law was passed in 2003.
"The other benefit as to law enforcement is we now have a database. We have a database of individuals who are drivers that we could use, either in criminal investigations, emergency notifications, any number of things."
Still, supporters of repeal say it would end fraud that has occurred in New Mexico. The governor's bill could still be resurrected by anyone who voted against it previously. Repeal sponsor Paul Pacheco declined to discuss his or the governor's plan of action in the wake of it's apparent defeat. There is still time for introduction of another bill, should he or another lawmaker decide to do that.