Another landmark case regarding state immigration laws has come to a head. Four state senators and a woman resident of Silver City has petitioned the courts for an injunction to be issued against Gov. Susana Martinez’s government from its current policy of verifying whether an immigrant who received a driver’s license in New Mexico still lives in the state.
The policy being questioned is the random sampling of 10,000 license holders of foreign ancestry to determine if they are actually New Mexico residents.
This policy was instituted, as New Mexico requires no proof of citizenship when applying for a driver’s license. There are two other states with the same policy, namely Washington and Utah. Utah’s limitation though is the license issued cannot be used as a government ID card.
The current government wants to end the policy that grants driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, as there is no requirement for proof of citizenship. This system, according to the governor, is a danger to public safety as it attracts illegal immigrants that claim they live in the New Mexico for the fraudulent purpose of getting ID cards. It is for this reason that the residency verification plan was instituted.
The residency verification plan, the state issues notices to require a personal appointment to provide documentation for proof that they live in the state. The state would cancel the licenses of those who fail to provide documentation of their residency in the state.
The petition claims that there is unequal protection of the laws, as it singles out foreign nationals. The petition also contends that the government does not have the authority to order the checks as there is no law that allows it which consequently would be an effective reapplication for a driver’s license.
For its part, the New Mexico government says it is abridging its police power, particularly in confronting identity theft and fraud. The problem was brought about by a 2003 law allowing more than 80,000 driver’s licenses to be issued to foreign nationals.
Amongst the petitioners are Rep. Eliseo Alcon (D-Milan), Sens Howie Morales (D-Silver City) and Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) and Marisela Morales, a legal permanent resident of the US and sister-in-law of Sen. Morales.