Hey it's a drivers license, not an "internal passport".
All it does is say you know how to drive a car. And all that should be required to get a drivers license is to show you know how to drive.
If they require "proof of citizenship" to get a driver's license they should rename it and call it an "internal passport"
License Access in New Mexico Is Heated Issue
By MARC LACEY
Published: August 23, 2011
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico is one of just two states, the other being Washington, that allow in-state residents who are illegal immigrants to get the same driver’s licenses given to citizens, as long as they pass a written test and successfully show they can turn and stop and park.
"This isn't an immigrant issue. It's a public safety issue," said Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico.
But critics, led by the newly elected governor, Susana Martinez, say that the lenient licensing law attracts illegal immigrants from far and wide who fraudulently claim they live in New Mexico in order to get identification cards that allow them to settle into American life.
“We don’t have any idea what kind of individuals we are giving these licenses to,” Ms. Martinez said in an interview, suggesting that other states may also be adversely affected by New Mexico’s approach.
No issue is more heated in New Mexico these days than that of driver’s licenses. There are street protests and angry debates over the airwaves. Lawyers will soon be clashing over the question in court.
Meanwhile, to prove her point, Ms. Martinez has been drawing attention to each new case of fraud.
In May, charges were filed against a man who advertised his services securing licenses for illegal immigrants in Spanish-language newspapers in New York. The Border Patrol arrested him in Albuquerque in the company of illegal immigrants from Ecuador and Colombia, whom he was helping to become licensed drivers in New Mexico.
In March, another license scam aimed at immigrants from South Asia resulted in four arrests. That was the sixth fraudulent-license arrest in seven months, state officials said, with others involving illegal immigrants from China, Poland, Costa Rica and Brazil.
By issuing licenses to foreigners, a policy adopted in 2003, state officials had sought to reduce the problem of unlicensed and uninsured drivers on the road and increase cooperation between immigrants and law enforcement personnel. The extent to which the policy has worked is in dispute as data show that New Mexico continues to have one of the largest percentages of uninsured motorists in the country.
Ms. Martinez, a Republican who campaigned on the licensing issue, tried but failed in her initial months in office to push an end to the licensing of illegal immigrants through the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats. She says she will try again in September at a special session she has called.
In the meantime, her administration has sent letters to 10,000 citizens of foreign countries across New Mexico in an effort to gauge the extent of the fraud problem.
Those who received the letters were told that they must appear at a motor vehicles office in Albuquerque within 30 days to prove to an auditor that they actually reside in the state or face cancellation of their licenses.
About a third of the 10,000 letters were returned to the state, which the governor’s office says shows a serious fraud problem. Of the 2,000 or so face-to-face meetings that have been held, about half the people have been able to prove they are in-state residents, state officials say.
The governor’s office has insisted that the audit was not intended to facilitate deporting illegal immigrants, but fear still remains high.
“I’m afraid to go,” said Luz, a mother of three from Mexico who received one of the letters but has not yet responded. “Will they deport me once I get there? Or will I get stopped on the way?”
Even with licenses, illegal immigrants say they must tread carefully in the state. They are aware of the location of the various federal immigration checkpoints set up on New Mexican roads and steer well away from them.
After hearing that many who received the letters were afraid to travel to Albuquerque, the governor’s office agreed to schedule meetings as well in Las Cruces, in the southern part of the state.
Still, the letters have been criticized by immigrant rights groups. “This program doesn’t prove anything,” said Marcela Diaz, an activist with Somos Un Pueblo Unido. “People move around and change their addresses. We knew that already. This is just blatantly inconveniencing those who followed the rules.”
On Wednesday, four Democratic legislators and Marisela Morales, a legal permanent resident who received one of the letters, intend to file suit in state court accusing the governor’s office of acting without legislative authority in issuing the letters and also of discriminating against people on the basis of their legal status.
The suit will ask a judge to order Demesia Padilla, who as the governor’s secretary of taxation and revenue oversees the motor vehicles division, to end the verification program immediately. The legal team behind the suit includes Vincent Ward, who was chief legal counsel to former Gov. Bill Richardson, who approved the current licensing policy. David H. Urias, a civil rights lawyer, and Martha Gomez of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, are also involved.
New Mexico has traditionally had a welcoming approach toward illegal immigrants, especially compared with Arizona, its neighbor to the west. But calls for a tougher approach have been growing, which is reflected by Ms. Martinez’s victory in November as well as the heated nature of the driver’s license debate.
Gerald Ortiz y Pino, a Democratic state senator and a plaintiff in the suit, said there might be a need for tighter controls in licensing, although he dismissed as exaggerated the talk of terrorists and drug bosses getting licenses. Mr. Ortiz y Pino said revoking licenses for illegal immigrants would end up prompting more people to live in the shadows.
“One of the tactics the governor has used is to encourage people to send us angry, vituperative letters questioning our patriotism and fealty to the U.S.,” he said. “That leaves every one very raw.”
Ms. Martinez said that the vast majority of residents were in her corner on ending the policy and that legislators needed to get that message. “It’s important to me because it’s important to New Mexico,” she said.
The issue has far less urgency in Washington State, where officials have tightened residency requirements to cut down on fraud while still allowing illegal immigrants to receive licenses. Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, said she would sign a bill restricting licenses to legal residents if the Legislature were to pass one.
Utah issues special licenses to people who cannot prove their citizenship. These licenses are good only for driving but not for other uses, like boarding airplanes. That dual-license approach has not won support in New Mexico.
As the standoff continues, some of those who can legally drive now but may be in danger of losing their licenses are contemplating how their lives might change.
“How will I take my children to school?” asked Luz, who did not want her full name used given the continuing debate. “How can I go to Wal-Mart to get medicine? If you take away our licenses, you take away our lives.”