A House Republican driver’s license bill aimed at issuing driving privilege cards to immigrants without legal status passed along party lines in the House Judiciary Committee on Monday afternoon. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, told the committee his legislation was an attempt to solve a long-time problem surrounded in debate in New Mexico. “We’ve been dealing and wrestling with this problem for as long as I’ve been in the House,” Pacheco said. On hand as an expert witness was Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla, who also said Pacheco’s bill would put to rest the debate on who gets driver’s licenses as well. “I believe the solution you have before you takes care of everyone’s needs,” Padilla told the panel.
The House Regulatory and Public Affairs passed, along party lines, a Republican driver’s license bill Thursday evening. Sponsors of HB 99, Reps. Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch and Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, presented the bill and told the panel that this was their attempt at compromising on the multiple-yearlong issue of whether or not to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Nuñez said since 2010 he’s tried to repeal the state law that allows a person to get a driver’s license without legal documentation of citizenship. “Since then we made a lot of compromises,” Nuñez said.
A national research and polling group released data on Monday that, they say, shows that a majority of New Mexicans are in favor of a previous Senate bill that would allow the option of getting a standard driver’s license or one that is Real ID compliant. Somos un Pueblo Unido, an immigrant right’s group held a press conference to announce findings by polling group Latino Decisions. Somos un Pueblo Unido commissioned the poll. The group opposes bills that would bar those who are in the country illegally from getting driver’s licenses. Gabriel Sanchez, a University of New Mexico professor and Latino Decisions pollster said the group’s poll revealed that 56 percent of registered voters in New Mexico are in favor of giving New Mexicans the choice to have a Real ID license or not.
A new political television ad slated to start running on Friday features Gov. Susana Martinez and focuses on the highly-debated driver’s license legislation. The ad is paid for by Advance New Mexico Now, a political action committee, and features Martinez speaking out against a state law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. “This is not about immigration, it’s about public safety,” Martinez said in the ad. “And it’s time we repeal this dangerous law.”
The ad pushes for what it calls a “compromise” bill that was pre-filed before the legislative session which begins on Tuesday. NM Political Report left a voicemail for the treasurer listed on the PAC’s most recent campaign finance report but did not hear back by press time.
Gov. Susana Martinez pledged Thursday to put at least two non-budget items on the call this coming legislative session. Speaking on a panel with members of the local business community, Martinez said she will allow legislators to introduce bills on changing driver’s licenses and barring mandatory union agency fees as a condition of work, sometimes called right to work. Martinez has made ending New Mexico’s practice of allowing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants one of her top priorities for five years. But she took a notable shift in her rhetoric about the issue in her comments at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, saying for the first time that she’d support a two-tiered system that still allows driver’s permits for undocumented immigrants. “An illegal immigrant should not receive a driver’s license that looks like mine or yours,” Martinez said.
The Department of Homeland Security says that if the governor and State Legislature can agree on a fix state drivers licenses to comply with REAL ID, the federal government will grant a waiver for implementation. That is from a news release from the four Democratic members of the congressional delegation and comes after months of confusion and political grandstanding on REAL ID compliance. The four said in the release that they met with DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently. In it, Mayorkas pledged if an agreement can be found, a waiver can still happen. Right now, New Mexico drivers licenses will not be suitable identification for federal facilities as of Jan.
Senate Democratic leaders accused the governor’s office of spreading misinformation on the REAL ID Act even as they announced their plan to comply with the federal identification law. The Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, made the announcement on Tuesday and included audio of what they said was a phone call made to the governor’s office about the need for passports to travel. They said the audio showed a member of Martinez’s office saying that New Mexicans would need a passport—not just a state-issued driver’s license—to travel by January 10 of next year. Federal officials have said that New Mexicans would need passports or other identification to enter some federal facilities by next January but that travel through airports would not be enforced until at least the spring. “It is time to clear up for New Mexico residents whether they need to run out and get a passport, or not, in order to take a domestic commercial flight, or to enter a federal building or one of the military or research facilities in our state.
Doña Ana County commissioners want the state legislature to institute a two-tier driver’s license system in the upcoming legislative session to comply with the federal REAL ID Act. The issue, when has been a perennial issue since Gov. Susana Martinez was elected, has renewed attention after the state failed to receive a waiver from the federal government over compliance to the REAL ID Act. This means that New Mexico driver’s licenses will not be accepted to enter federal facilities on January 10. The federal government says that in the spring, New Mexico driver’s licenses will not be proper identification to board commercial flights. It is now one of the top issues that will face the Legislature in the upcoming legislative session that begins on January 19.
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. 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.
The Democrats in the New Mexico congressional delegation say it is up the state Legislature to solve the REAL ID problem. The REAL ID Act requires proof of citizenship or lawful status in the United States for an identification to be used for federal uses, such as entering federal facilities or eventually to get on an airplane. New Mexico did not receive a waiver from the federal government for REAL ID compliance. The remarks came in a joint statement from Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham. All are Democrats.