Driver’s license fight close to finished

Senate panel unanimously approves compromise, Governor supports bill "as is"

SANTA FE (KRQE) – A newly amended compromise version of a bill to make New Mexico’s driver’s licenses federally compliant moved out of its final Senate committee on a unanimous vote Friday evening.

The move could signal an end to the long-running driver’s license fight that’s consumed significant attention in the state for years. Friday evening, Gov. Susana Martinez announced she’d sign the bill in its current form.

“This bill stops giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, provides a secure ID and includes security measures that New Mexicans expect and deserve,” Gov. Martinez said in a statement. “I support the bill in its current form, and call on lawmakers in both chambers to do what the people have asked us. Let’s pass this bill — as is.”

HB 99, sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, would allow the state to give out a driving privilege card and a federally complaint license. Anyone could get that privilege card, which would not be able to be used for federal identification purposes, but only those in the country legally could get that license.

An additional amendment was added to HB 99 that would require immigrants here illegally who don’t already have a New Mexico license to get fingerprints in order to receive a newly offered driving privilege card from the state. Anyone with a current New Mexico license who goes to get a new driving privilege card would be grandfathered in and not subject to that fingerprint requirement.

Those fingerprints, which Gov. Martinez demanded be in any driver’s license bill, would be checked against the FBI database to determine if the driver has another alias, has provided false information or outstanding warrants somewhere else. Under the bill, those fingerprints or information could not be shared with immigration enforcement authorities.

Immigrants rights group Somos un Pueblo Unido has continued to oppose the fingerprinting provision, worried that it would turn MVD and state law enforcement into a de facto immigration enforcement agency. Tax and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla insists that would not be the case.

But despite that, Marcela Diaz with Somos un Pueblo Unido declared victory on the issue Friday night saying that their efforts had fought off a full repeal of licenses the governor had once pushed for. They say immigrants will still be allowed to drive legally with a driving privilege card that’s essentially the same as a license and would not be discriminatory as some New Mexicans with legal status would also have it.

The full Senate could vote on HB 99 as soon as Saturday. If the House concurs with the Senate’s changes, the bill would go to the governor’s desk.

 

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