Senate Democrats united in opposition to immigrant driver's license repeal

Feb 21, 2011

Santa Fe, NM – Democrats in the state Senate were united Monday in opposition to attempts to end the process of giving drivers' licenses to undocumented people in the state. Senate Republicans tried three times, through amendments, to reverse the drivers' license law that was put in place in 2003. Farmington Republican Bill Sharer argued it's a public safety issue.

"After 9/11," Sharer said, "when all of the people that boarded those airplanes all had legal driver's licenses, but were here illegally, and then crashed their planes into buildings, killing Americans and non-Americans as well, after that fourteen states undid their laws granting people driver's licenses that were not here in this country legally."

It's now illegal in 47 states to obtain a driver's license without a social security number. But some Democrats, like Albuquerque Senator Eric Griego, stressed that New Mexico is a state made up largely of immigrants.

"Didn't matter if they were three hundred, four hundred years ago," Griego argued, "they were still immigrants. And I don't, I'm not aware of any time in history that we were asking people for papers and saying we were going to treat you differently, unless you could afford an immigration lawyer. And we can talk around this, we can say it's about driving privileges, we can say it's about insurance, it's about public safety, but the bottom line is we are singling out a particular group of people, and saying "you're gonna be treated differently."

Several immigrant driver's license repeal bills have died in committee in this session. Governor Susana Martinez is reportedly examining her options to bypass the legislature on the issue. More about this on our KUNM Government Project blog at www.KUNMGov.org