New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez found her recent attempts to repeal a state law met with criticism from both the legislature and the general public.
Martinez’s repeal, which was a bid to not stop New Mexico’s policy of granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, was shut down by the legislature. Instead lawmakers passed a Democrat-backed alternative that will continue to grant undocumented residents licenses, albeit under new restrictions.
According to the new measure, illegal immigrants will still be legally able to get their license, but will have to renew them every two years, down from four to eight years under the current regulations. Penalties for fraudulent licenses will also be increased under the new alternative.
However, the new legislation still needs to pass through the 70 member House to come into effect.
During the process of the driver’s license legislation, hundreds of immigration advocates flocked to Santa Fe in protest of Martinez’s propositions. Made up of immigrant groups, religious organizations and student activists, the advocates marched around the Capitol building, holding politically charged signs stating things like, “New Mexico is not Arizona,” and chanting slogans. Several children also attended the rallies, some wearing yellow shirts with the words, “My mother is an immigrant,” according to Salt Lake City area news source the Deseret News.
Those who oppose giving illegal immigrants driver’s licenses believe the matter has more to do with the safety of residents than on immigration services in the state.
“This has never been an immigration issue. It’s not about immigration. It’s simply about public safety and security,” said Keith Gardner, the governor’s chief of staff, The Associated Press reported.
New Mexico and Washington are the only two states that allow illegal immigrants to receive a driver’s license. Utah allows illegal immigrants to obtain a driver’s permit; however, it cannot be used as a form of legal identification.