November 3, 2015

Pacheco will introduce bill for two-tier license system

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Members of immigrant rights advocacy group Somos Un Pueblo Unido made themselves hyper-visible during House floor debate on changes to state driver's licensing in 2015. (Photo: Margaret Wright)

A legislator who has been arguably the most visible proponent of repealing the law that allows undocumented immigrants now says he would be on board with a two-tier system.

Members of immigrant rights advocacy group Somos Un Pueblo Unido made themselves hyper-visible during House floor debate on changes to state driver's licensing. (Photo: Margaret Wright)

Members of immigrant rights advocacy group Somos Un Pueblo Unido made themselves hyper-visible during House floor debate on changes to state driver’s licensing in the 2015 Legislative Session. Photo Credit: Margaret Wright

Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, who sponsored outright repeal bills in the past, made the move following news that New Mexico did not receive an extension on a waiver for compliance on the REAL ID Act.

The legislation would allow those who are in the country illegally to have a license for driving, but it would not be valid for federal identification purposes.

The Associated Press first reported on the news.

Rep. Paul Pacheco told The Associated Press he will sponsor legislation that would grant New Mexico “driving privilege cards” for immigrants suspected of living in the country illegal.

Pacheco says he decided to look at the Utah model amid a stalemate between Republicans and Democrats over revising a New Mexico law that allows immigrants to obtain state driver’s licenses regardless of status.

Pacheco’s original bill in the year’s legislative session had a two-tier system but would not have allowed those in the country illegally to get driver’s licenses.

State Rep. Paul Pacheco

State Rep. Paul Pacheco

The two-tier system that allows those in the country illegally to get driver’s licenses is known as a “Utah-style” system because that state instituted a similar driver’s licensing system. In doing so, Utah unwittingly began complying with the federal REAL ID Act.

House Democrats attempted to amend the driver’s license repeal bill to allow those in the country illegally to have driving privileges. That effort failed and the House passed an outright repeal. The Senate, about a day before the end of the session, passed a compromise bill that would have a two-tier system.

In the House debate, Pacheco said that allowing those who are in the country illegally to get any sort of drivers licenses would be against federal law.

Susana Martinez has pushed for an outright repeal during her time as governor. In 2011, Martinez said that she would not sign a bill creating a two-tier license system.

Last week, the New Mexico congressional delegation weighed in and said no help was going to come on the federal level and it would be up the Legislature. The delegation backed the two-tier system.

New-Mexico-drivers-License-PolicyJim Harper, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, a Washington D.C.-based libertarian think tank, told NM Political Report last week he did not think the federal Department of Homeland Security would actually stop people from traveling on planes domestically.

Still, the REAL ID waiver denial has put the driver’s license issue back on the frontburner for the upcoming session.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 12 states and the District of Columbia offer driver’s licenses to at least some undocumented immigrants.

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