Victims Rights Advocates Support NM License Compromise with No Fingerprinting

Feb 11, 2016

  Commentary:  Over two dozen domestic violence and sexual assault service providers, and the New Mexico Hispanic Bar Association, announced their opposition to fingerprinting and background check requirements for immigrants applying for driving authorization cards.

A bi-partisan group of New Mexico senators currently support compromise legislation (amended HB99) that complies with the Real ID Act and continues to keep undocumented immigrants licensed. But a proposal to require immigrant applicants to submit fingerprints to multiple law enforcement databases, undergo background checks that include civil immigration status, and share that information with federal immigration enforcement officials has many advocates concerned. These punitive measures could discourage immigrants from obtaining a license or ID card, an important tool for victims of domestic violence and sexual 


"In 2003 we supported, along with law enforcement officials, the driver's license legislation because it was not only going to help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence but because it was going to improve safety for all New Mexicans. We understand that this has become a political issue but that does not change the fact that victims still need our protection."

- Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, Executive Director for Enlace Comunitario

"We should not be instituting policies that create even more barriers, such as fingerprinting, for victims and survivors ability to submit and win orders of protections against their abusers."

- Pamela Wiseman, Executive Director, New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence

"Immigrant victims of sexual assault are often isolated, vulnerable, and afraid.  We need policies like driver's for immigrants, a law that victim's rights advocates have long fought for, to empower victims, not silence them.  We've worked so hard in the last forty years to help immigrant victims of crimes feel safe to reach out to law enforcement. Forcing MVD and the Department of Public Safety to report on immigrants will set us back."

--Sheila Lewis, speaking on behalf of Solace Crisis Treatment Center and Santa Fe Safe.  

Joint statement

Domestic violence and sexual assault service providers and advocates from around the state are deeply alarmed about the compromise legislation on the issuance of driver's licenses to New Mexico's immigrant families and the possibility of including a requirement for immigrants to undergo fingerprinting and civil immigration status checks in order to apply for a license to drive in New Mexico.

A state driver's license is an essential tool available to the abused individuals to overcome barriers to freedom and safety. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence support driver's licenses for immigrants because of the importance of having a government identification card and a license to drive for survivors.   The proposal to require fingerprinting before allowing immigrants to obtain a state license or a driving authorization puts up an additional barrier for them to overcome.  As we work to eliminate violence in the home, we should not institute policies that restrict survivors' ability to get a license that helps them to get an order of protection against an abuser, cash a check, open a bank account, check into a hotel, to use a credit card, to drive to safety and simply to empower themselves.

We strongly urge legislators to oppose a fingerprinting or background check requirement for immigrant drivers in this compromise legislation.

1.     New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Pamela Wiseman Executive Director (Statewide Coalition of Domestic Service Providers)

2.     Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, Executive Director, Enlace Comunitario (Bernalillo, Valencia, Sandoval Counties)

3.     Marsie Silvestro, Executive Director, Esperanza Shelter (Santa Fe County)

4.     Pamelya Herndon, Executive Director, Southwest Women's Law Center (Statewide)

5.     Blanca Chavez, Executive Director,  Domestic Abuse Intervention Center (Sierra County)

6.     Cindy Wilson, Executive Director, Roswell Refuge for Battered Adults (Chavez, DeBaca)

7.     Terri Pearce, Executive Director, Tri County Family Justice Center of NE NM (San Miguel, Mora, Guadalupe Counties)

8.     Rod Kaskalla, Executive Director, Nambe Pueblo Domestic Violence Program (Santa Fe County)

9.     Irene Trejo, Executive Director, The Healing House, (Luna County)

10.  Dinora Guthrie, Executive Director, Option Inc (Lea County)

11.  Sheila Lewis, Santa Fe Safe (Santa Fe County)

12.  Alexandria Taylor, Valencia Shelter Services (Valencia County)

13.  Kay Gomolak, COPE, Inc (Otero, Lincoln Counties)

14.  Malinda Williams, Community Against Violence (Taos County)

15.  Sally Sanchez Robertas Place (Cibola County)

16.  Opal Cole, Family Crisis Center (San Juan County)

17.  Maria Morales-Loebl, Executive Director, El Refugio (Grant County)

18.  Kelli Sierras, Executive Director of Silver Regional Sexual Assault Support Services (Grant & Hildago Counties)

19.  Crisis Center of Northern New Mexico, Contact: Ramon Garcia, Assistant Director (Rio Arriba County)

20.  Tewa Women United, Corrine Sanchez, Executive Director (Northern New Mexico)

21.  Alexandra Taylor, Executive Director, Valencia Shelter Services (Valencia County)

22.  María José Cádiz, Executive Director, Solace Crisis Treatment Center (Santa Fe County)

23.  Rape Crisis Center of Central New Mexico, Contact May Sagbakker, Executive Director (Bernalillo County)

24.  Eleana Butler, Executive Director, Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico (San Juan County)

25.  Family Crisis Center, Contact: Wendy Buchanan, Clinical Director (San Juan County)

26.  Casa Fortaleza, Liza Wolf-Francis, Executive Director (Bernalillo County)

27.  Kay Bounkeua, Executive Director New Mexico Asian Family Center (Bernalillo County)

To read the joint statement and to see a full list of signers, click here.

To read the statement from the New Mexico Hispanic Bar Association, click here.

To read the statement from the Immigration Section of the New Mexico State Bar, click here, to read a full letter, click here.