Poll shows Hispanic families hit hard by pandemic

A poll of 1,000 New Mexico Hispanic families indicates that Hispanic families have struggled financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. BSP Research released a statewide survey Thursday done on behalf of several organizations detailing the economic hardships those polled said they faced. Some of the key findings include that the poll found that 28 percent of Hispanic families polled earn less than $20,000 in 2020 and 60 percent have $1,000 or less in savings. Marcela Diaz, executive director of Santa Fe-based Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said several nonprofit and grassroots organizations collected at the onset of the pandemic to form the Economic Relief Working Group to provide information between Latinos in the state, the immigrant and Spanish-speaking populations and policy makers and the government in Santa Fe. The Economic Relief Working Group commissioned BSP Research to conduct the poll and produce the survey based on it.

Sanctuary bill advances on party-line vote

A panel of Democrats in the New Mexico Senate used their superior numbers Friday to advance a bill that would prohibit state and local police agencies from using any resources to enforce federal immigration law. The Public Affairs Committee voted 4-3 for the measure, Senate Bill 196. All the Republicans on the committee voted against the bill, but didn’t bother debating it. Immigrants and their advocacy groups packed a hearing room to support the bill. New Mexico’s chief law enforcement officer, state Attorney General Hector Balderas, sent a surrogate to announce that he favors it.

Committee hears about problems with two-tier license system

New Mexico’s two-tiered driver’s license law that Gov. Susana Martinez celebrated as a political victory has been a horror show for ordinary people, Democratic state senators said Thursday. “We are making it really hard,” said Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Santa Fe. “Immigrants, homeless people, elders … we’re really making it difficult for people in the state.” The law gives state residents without proof of immigration status an opportunity to obtain a driving privilege card.

Judge stops, for now, some of state’s reasons for denying wage theft claims

A judge temporarily halted a New Mexico state agency’s self-imposed limitations on wage theft claims.

In a ruling Tuesday afternoon, Santa Fe District Judge David Thomson ordered that, for now, the state Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) cannot automatically deny complaints of wage theft that total more than $10,000. The state department is also not allowed to automatically turn down claims that happened more than a year before they’re made. “Wage theft” refers to an employer denying payments owed to an employee in any way, which can include paying below minimum wage and refusing to pay overtime, for example. Thomson’s temporary restraining order against the state comes because of a class-action lawsuit filed just two weeks ago by “low income workers” who made wage theft claims against their employers to DWS. Ten individuals named in the lawsuit allege that DWS’ handling of their wage theft claims violate multiple state laws.

Legislators join battle over immigrant tax returns

Legislators joined the dispute between an immigrant rights group and the state Taxation and Revenue Department. State Rep. Miguel Garcia and State Sens. Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Richard Martinez, all Democrats, sided with the immigrant rights group Somos un Pueblo Unido and MALDEF. The groups say that TRD is illegally withholding tax returns from immigrants who are in the country illegally. The TRD secretary says that the efforts are legal and necessary to root out fraud in tax returns.

Session Recap: Driver’s license bill (finally) passes

It took six legislative sessions, but the Legislature finally sent a bill to the governor related to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. The compromise legislation ended up being closer to the version that passed the Senate late in the 2015 session than the versions that passed the House in the previous years. The bill allows those who are in the country illegally to get a driver’s authorization card, which would not be compliant with the federal REAL ID Act. Those who can prove they are in the country legally could choose to either have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or the driver’s authorization card. This is the first in a series of stories looking back at the key things that passed or failed during the 2016 legislative session.

House sends driver’s license bill to governor’s desk

The House of Representatives Monday late afternoon voted 65-1 to concur with the Senate’s version of the driver’s license bill, bringing the heated issue to an end, at least for now. Only Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, voted against the measure, though she did not explain her vote on the floor. Debate was quick, lasting less than 10 minutes, and featured a few self-congratulatory remarks. “This is a victory for the people of New Mexico,” said House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe. “Unquestionably it’s a victory for our immigrant community here in New Mexico.”

The bill allows immigrants who are not in the country legally who don’t already have driver’s licenses to qualify for driver’s privilege cards, which don’t work for identification purposes.

Fired up Sanchez criticizes media, governor

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, responded to Gov. Susana Martinez’ State of the State address earlier on Tuesday afternoon with heated words. And he didn’t save all of his frustration for Republicans. See Also: Gov. Susana Martinez’s State of the State Address

“Once again, for the news media, especially the television news media, let me make it clear once and for all: You don’t need a passport to get on an airplane in the state of New Mexico,” Sanchez said to members of the media. “That’s false, and those reporters who report that are wrong.”

Sanchez then referred to how an official from the federal Department of Homeland Security wrote a letter to the editor in response to a November Albuquerque Journal editorial that stated New Mexicans would not be able to use a state driver’s license to board commercial flights “later next year” because of the state’s noncompliance with the federal Real ID Act. The federal government, at that point, had not provided a deadline for when New Mexico driver’s licenses would stop being valid in airports.

Poll: Most in NM want Senate license compromise bill

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.

Guv changes tone on DL debate, will push ‘right to work’ this session

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.