Statewide Groups Blast New Mexico House Approval Of Bill Creating Driver Permit Cards For Immigrants

Jan 27, 2016

  Commentary:  With over 150 immigrant workers and their US Citizen children looking on from the gallery, all Republicans, along with Representatives Dona Irwin and Stephanie Garcia-Richard, in the NM House of Representatives voted to take away the drivers' licenses of over 90,000 New Mexicans, immigrant residents who live, work and pay taxes here, and force them to carry a discriminatory one-year driving privilege card marked with their immigration status. HB 99, was sponsored by Albuquerque Republican Rep. Paul Pacheco and backed by Governor Martinez.

The following is a statement from Somos Un Pueblo Unido, New Mexico's statewide immigrant's rights organization:

"Tonight House Republicans chose discrimination over compromise, proving to New Mexicans they prefer to pander to a small anti-immigrant base instead of listening to the majority of registered voters in New Mexico who overwhelmingly disagree with the Governor's anti-immigrant agenda," said Marcela Diaz, Executive Director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido. "The Republicans' tired arguments about driver's licenses and the Real ID Act are undercut by the facts, as was clearly demonstrated in tonight's debate. Rep. Pacheco's punitive proposal not only discriminates against New Mexico immigrant families but would turn the NM Motor Vehicles Department and the Department of Public Safety into de facto immigration enforcement agencies. This would create a shameful deportation pipeline that would severely strain the state's already limited resources not to mention the separation of families. Make no mistake, this vote was anti-immigrant and anti-Latino. It's shameful that legislators would put us down this dangerous and disgraceful road."

More responses from various statewide civil rights, faith and labor organizations:

"HB 99 is a xenophobic and racist piece of legislation that is embarrassing to our great state and goes against our values of family and fairness. Shame on Governor Martinez and shame on the Republican-controlled House; with two compromise bills on the table that don't discriminate and are Real ID compliant, it's crystal clear that this has nothing to do with Real ID. This is about a conservative-led, hateful, anti-immigrant agenda, and we are committed to fighting against it at every turn"

- Amber Royster, executive director for Equality New Mexico

"We hope that HB 99, which would stigmatize undocumented immigrants by requiring them to obtain a driver's permit rather than a license and to register with the FBI, will be defeated in the Senate."

- Suki Halevi, New Mexico Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League

"Aside from our obvious concerns about immigrants being targeted by police, we believe that this bill harms U.S. citizens by forcing them to get a REAL ID compliant driver's licenses," said Steven Robert Allen, Director of Public Policy for the ACLU of New Mexico. "Many New Mexicans are deeply uncomfortable with the idea of their driver's license doubling as a national ID card that feeds their personal information into federal databases. With a true, two tiered driver's license system, we can meet state REAL ID requirements while at least giving New Mexicans the option of whether they personally want to participate or not."

- Steven Robert Allen, Director of Public Policy for the ACLU of New Mexico

"The passage of HB99 is cause for grief and dismay. Under the false pretext of improving security and complying with federal law, HB99 negates the Abrahamic traditions which call us to be good neighbors to all who live in our community. Moreover this bill stands in contrast to the words of Buddhist monk, Thick Nhat Hanh that "we are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness." Too long have we hidden behind the illusion of Real ID-compliant licenses when more humane and workable solutions are supported by most New Mexicans."

- Justin Remer-Thamert, Program Director for the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice

"It is disappointing to see the Legislature pass a bill like HB 99, which will label and discriminate against only certain New Mexicans. As educators, we teach our students that we are all equal and can achieve any dream we imagine; this bill undermines our New Mexican values, and will be detrimental for our students, schools, and communities."

- Stephanie Ly, President of the New Mexico Federation of Teachers.

"The so-called "solution" of HB99 is rooted in prejudice and would codify prejudice against people in a variety of circumstances, making it more difficult for them to care for their families and contribute to their communities. The effort to pass such a bill is inconsistent with the mercy and compassion that all faiths profess. Further, this bill would place an expensive and unnecessary burden on New Mexicans who simply don't want a Real ID."

- Rev. Dr. Donna McNiel, NM Conference of Churches

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.