October 25, 2019

NM won’t provide driver’s license data to Trump administration

The state of New Mexico will not provide driver’s license data to the Trump administration.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the Trump administration asked states to provide driver’s license information data in another effort to get citizenship data. The administration sought to get the information through the 2020 Census for use in redistricting in 2021, but lost a court battle over adding a question to the decennial census.

According to the AP, at least 13 states have denied the Trump administration’s request, 17 others are still deciding and 17 states haven’t received a request yet, while three states did not respond to questions.

A spokeswoman for the governor’s office told NM Political Report about the decision on Tuesday after she spoke with the state Taxation and Revenue Department, which oversees the state’s driver’s license program.

“New Mexico did receive the request and will not be allowing access to our data,” Press Secretary Nora Meyers Sackett said in a statement. “As the state has expressed in other contexts, we don’t provide blanket access to our databases to other agencies. The formal denial of the request may not have come out of TRD’s legal bureau yet but that will be the answer.”

Peter Simonson, the executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico, applauded the decision.

“We commend Governor Lujan Grisham for doing the right thing and denying the Trump administration’s request to hand over New Mexicans’ private data for the purpose of further marginalizing immigrant families and communities of color,” Simonson said. “Now we must create some bright lines in our state laws protecting New Mexicans from these kind of privacy breaches into the future.” 

Driver’s licenses have been a hot topic in New Mexico for years.

In 2003, New Mexico allowed anyone, regardless of immigration status, to get a driver’s license. Susana Martinez campaigned on repealing the law and only allowing those here lawfully to get driver’s licenses. For much of her time in office, she was unsuccessful in changing the law, but in 2016 the Legislature came to a compromise and passed a two-tier system, one which requires a social security number and is compliant with the federal Real ID Act and another which permits driving but not as an identification for things like getting on a plane or entering a federal facility.

A recent settlement found the state doing away with driver authorization cards for the non-federally compliant identifications and issuing standard drivers licenses that include the words “Not Intended for federal purposes.”