Immigration Activists Rally Against Change to New Mexico Law

Immigrant rights activists are converging on New Mexico’s state capital, Santa Fe, to protest the possible repeal of a 2003 law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

Republican Susana Martinez, the first Latina governor of New Mexico, made a campaign pledge to roll back the 2003 measure. She had early success last March, when the state’s House of Representatives passed a bill stipulating a Social Security card would be needed to secure a driver’s license. However, that legislation was blocked by the Senate.

Now Martinez has put the issue back on the legislative agenda, inciting protests. About 100 people gathered at the State Capitol on September 6, and the Border Human Rights Group delivered a petition against the measure to the governor’s office. Other activists have called for an immigrant day of action against the bill.

The governor’s allies say illegal immigrants from around the country come to New Mexico to fraudulently obtain a license, which makes it easier for unauthorized individuals to remain in the United States.

Opponents of repeal argue that licensing illegal immigrants increases public safety, given that driving is a necessity for millions of people, regardless of their citizenship status.

A recently passed immigration law in Utah is also creating controversy related to driver’s licenses. Under the law, refugees must take the license exam in English, without a translator, if they have been in the country for more than a year. Many refugees say one year is not long enough to master sufficient English to take the test, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.