Driver's License Debate Continues In New Mexico

By Mónica Ortiz Uribe
January 30, 2014
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
A worker at a peanut factory outside Portales, New Mexico. Immigrants make up a percentage of the workforce in factories like this one.

While more states around the country vote to grant undocumented immigrants driving privileges, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez continues her to fight to repeal them.

But outside the New Mexico capitol Wednesday, protestors wearing yellow hard hards aimed to send a message to the governor about the importance of the state's immigrant workforce. The Associated Press reports many of the protestors work on New Mexico's oil fields and dairy farms.

Lawmakers are currently convened in Santa Fe for the last legislative session before the 2014 elections. This is the last chance for Martinez to make good on a top campaign promise: revoking a law that allows immigrants in the country illegally to obtain a driver's license. She has pushed the issue every legislative session without success. 

Meanwhile eight other states, including California and Nevada, passed laws in 2013 that will allow undocumented immigrants to drive legally. By contrast, Arizona, is locked in a legal battle to prevent young immigrants with temporary legal status from obtaining a driver's license.

New Mexico doesn't require proof of citizenship in order to apply for a driver's license. Martinez's main argument against the policy is that it opens the door to fraud. State police have investigated numerous cases that suggest foreigners are coming into the state using fake documentation to apply for a license.

One of the largest cases in 2012 took place in Portales. Investigators believe at least 54 immigrants illegally obtained a license with the help of a fraud ring.

Nationally, serious debate over immigration reform continues into its second year. Republican lawmakers are expected to tackle the subject Thursday during their annual retreat.