Commentary: Somos Un Pueblo Unido, New Mexico's statewide immigrant's rights organization, denounced recent announcements by Governor Martinez and her anti-immigrant allies in the House to introduce a proposal that would unnecessarily take away drivers' licenses from thousands of New Mexico's immigrant families and force them to carry a discriminatory driver's permit.
"Instead of defending New Mexicans against the unprecedented tactics of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to target and bully our state into complying with the Real ID Act, this Governor prefers to play ugly politics and exploit the issue to discriminate against immigrant families," said Marcela Diaz, Executive Director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido. "Taking away drivers' licenses from 90,000 New Mexicans, immigrants who have lived, worked, and paid taxes here, and then force them to carry a driver's permit marked with their immigration status goes against everything New Mexico stands for. It's unnecessary and shameful."
Even though the majority of Senate Republicans worked with Democrats to craft a REAL ID solution that would not stigmatize immigrant families, Republican House Speaker Don Tripp from Socorro County joined the Governor in calling for a discriminatory driver's permit.
"I depend on my driver's license every day to drive to my job at the dairy. I also used my license to register my three U.S. citizen children at school and open an account at the bank," said Edgar Chavez, a dairy worker and member of Somos Veguita in Socorro County, an affiliate of Somos. "Requiring me to carry a driver's card I couldn't use as an ID and that is marked with my immigration status makes no sense at all. It could lead to my deportation. I could lose my job. Even more terrifying, I might not be able to come home to my family. I urge my representative, Speaker Don Tripp, to think of families like mine in the upcoming session and stand up against the politics of hate. He should follow Senator Ingle's lead and support a sensible compromise so we can finally put this issue behind us."
Late last year, the embattled New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla failed to obtain an extension from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for New Mexico to comply with the federal Real ID Act, resulting in a flood of misinformation and a specious attempt by Governor Martinez to blame immigrants for the state's non-compliance.
Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans came together during the 2015 legislative session to support a bipartisan compromise that would have made New Mexico compliant with the Real ID Act without discriminating against immigrants or forcing them to drive without a license. This legislation was sponsored by Senator Stuart Ingle (R-Portales) and Senator John Arthur Smith (D-Deming), but was publicly rejected by Governor Martinez.
More responses from various statewide civil rights, faith and labor organizations:
"Any form of discrimination has absolutely no place in New Mexico. Using the Real ID Act that singles out immigrants goes against our values and puts our state on a dangerous path. We sincerely hope that other law makers do the right thing, stand up to the politics of hate, and support a driver's license policy that doesn't institutionalize discrimination."
- Amber Royster, executive director for Equality New Mexico
"It is unconscionable and wanton for Republican House Speaker Don Tripp and Representative Paul Pacheco to needlessly propose such a discriminatory measure as driving permit cards for thousands of immigrant families across our state. These members of our churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship are not smugglers nor human traffickers but fathers, mothers, workers and leaders. We pray our legislators stand up to this animosity choosing the moral path of a driver's license policy that doesn't leave migrants vulnerable, separate and unequal."
- Justin Remer-Thamert, Program Director for the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice
"Driver's licenses for our friends and neighbors who are undocumented allow people living, working and contributing greatly to our communities to go about their daily lives. A driving permit card, however, threatens to stigmatize people and drive a wedge between them and local law enforcement, who may see the permits during traffic stops. Branding people based on their nationality or immigration status goes against our values as New Mexicans. That kind of discrimination has no place in our state."
- Suki Halevi, New Mexico Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League
"In our public schools across New Mexico, we teach our students to treat people of all backgrounds the same, regardless of race, gender, orientation, or immigration status. Our children cannot be expected to practice justice and fairness when the actions of some lawmakers contradict this teaching. Forcing immigrants to carry a lesser, discriminatory driver's permit based solely on immigration status is unjust and prejudicial."
- Stephanie Ly, President, American Federation of Teachers New Mexico
Somos Un Pueblo Unido is a statewide immigrant-led civil and worker's rights organization with membership teams in ten counties and offices in Santa Fe and Roswell. Somos spearheaded a campaign in 2003 with law enforcement officials, victims rights agencies, and faith and civil rights groups to require qualified undocumented immigrants to apply for licenses, obtain insurance, and register their vehicles.