For the second time in less than a year lawmakers in one of the only states to still offer illegal immigrants driver’s licenses have rejected legislation to reverse the practice, even though it violates a federal identification law enacted to protect national security after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
New Mexico started giving illegal aliens driver’s licenses after an influential immigrant rights group (Somos Un Pueblo Unido or We are a United Town) pushed for it in 2002. A handful of other states had the same reckless policy, but most have rescinded it to comply with the Real ID Act, enacted in 2005 at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to verify the authenticity of every driver’s license applicant.
The law forces states to require that documents, such as a birth certificate or passport, submitted to get the card are legitimate and that the applicant is in the United States legally. This will establish a much-needed standardized national driver’s license system that will be less prone to fraud and will prevent terrorists from abusing it as did several of the September 11 hijackers.
But New Mexico lawmakers refuse to comply, asserting that illegal immigrants must drive to work and take their children to school without fear of arrest for not having a license. In fact, the state’s House Majority leader, Democrat Ken Martinez, celebrates New Mexico’s driver’s license policy for allowing illegal immigrants to “come up from the shadows.”
The quote was published in a local newspaper a few days ago after a legislative committee nixed Republican Governor Susana Martinez’s proposal to stop allowing illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses. Last spring the full legislature defeated a bill that would have done away with the driver’s license policy. Washington State, the only other to offer illegal immigrants the cards, also rejected a similar bill around the same time.
Governor Martinez contends that New Mexico’s license system is subject to widespread fraud. In fact, the state has brought charges against several crime rings, in which brokers were paid to supplement fraudulent documents for foreign nationals from Poland, China, Mexico and other countries.
Additionally, a review of license data conducted by a national news wire reveals that dozens of address have been used over and over again by immigrants to get driver’s licenses in New Mexico. Though limited, the probe identified 170 addresses in New Mexico at which 10 or more licenses have been issued to different foreign nationals from 2003 through 2011.