In the upcoming 2012 session, the state legislature in New Mexico will revisit the issue to repeal a 2003 bill which allowed illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses in the state. New Mexico is one of three states that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. Since 2003, more than 80,000 foreign nationals have been issued driver's licenses.
Governor Susana Martinez is the major force behind the repeal and Rep. Andy Nunez (I-Hatch) will sponsor the bill this year.
Martinez has repeatedly said that allowing the undocumented to be issued driver's licenses has made the state a magnet for foreign criminals who want to get driver's licenses to have U.S. identification. Plus, the governor points to polls that show a large majority of New Mexicans support the repeal.
"It will be indentical to last year's bill," Nunez said in an interview.
The bill from the 2011 session proved to be controversial, contentious and a bitterly-fought issue for the state legislature.
Last year the House passed Nunez's repeal bill, but only after using the rare process of "blasting" the bill out of a committee that had tabled it. Tabling in committee is a frequent method of killing a bill without a floor vote. "Blasting" takes the bill out of the committee and directly on the floor. After two days of grueling debate on the floor, the House voted 42-28 to pass the bill.
When the bill came to the senate, the senators voted to amend it almost beyond recognition. The senate version of the bill would have kept the current licensing system but would have toughened penalties for fraudulently trying to obtain a driver's license. Also, immigrants would have had to renew their licenses every two years.
The House balked, and after some back and forth between the chambers, the bill died.
Nunez predicts that the bill will pass the house in the 2012 session, but once again supporters will have to 'blast' it out of committee. Therefore, all eyes will be on the Senate, where there are re-elections fears, as all Senate seats are up for election this year. The re-election factor will flip voted in the Senate.
Sen. Steve Fischmann (D-Las Cruces), who voted against the repeal last year, said last week that he might support Nunez's bill this time around. Fischmann says many of his constituents overwhelmingly in favor of the repeal.
For more information, see the full story at SanteFeNewMexican.com.