Momentum Building to End Driver's Licenses for Illegal Immigrants
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
With the political winds changing quickly on illegal immigration, however, New Mexico's current driver's license policy may soon come to an end.
As Stateline reported from Sante Fe in July , both candidates for governor — Republican Susan Martinez and Democrat Diane Denish — want to stop the state's policy of giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Now, both candidates for attorney general — Democrat Gary King and Republican Matt Chandler — also are taking aim at it , The New Mexico Independent reported. The two candidates tangled at an Albuquerque forum on Wednesday (Aug. 25).
Chandler, a district attorney, wants to do away with the policy altogether, saying it attracts illegal immigrants to New Mexico from other states and calling it a "breeding ground for crime." But King, who is now the attorney general and is running for reelection, stopped short of calling for repeal, instead proposing to create a two-tiered system of driver's licenses: one for U.S. citizens and one for non-citizens. "I think we do need to look at our laws in New Mexico and change them so that we make it very clear if we're issuing driver's licenses whether that person has passed a proof of citizenship or not to get that driver's license," King said, according to The Independent .
A recent Associated Press analysis discovered that New Mexico's policy may in fact be attracting immigrants from beyond the state's borders. The AP reported that there has been a surge in driver's license applicants in the three states that still provide them to undocumented residents, "a trend experts attribute to crackdowns on illegal immigration in Arizona and elsewhere."