NM House Vote Ends Long Political Conflict On Two-Tiered Driver's License System

by Reporter / Mar 14, 2019 / 0 comments

NM House Vote Ends Long Political Conflict On Two-Tiered Driver's License System

Legislature sends Governor bill aimed at streamlining process of obtaining standard non-REAL ID driver's license and ID card

SANTA FE, NM - Late Wednesday night, the House of Representatives voted 50-16 to send the Governor a bill that would help streamline the process of applying for and obtaining a standard non-REAL ID driver's license and identification card for countless New Mexico residents.

SB 278, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque) would implement a series of changes aimed at streamlining the application process for a standard non-REAL ID driver's license or identification card. These changes include doing away with the fingerprinting requirement for certain applicants who do not prove lawful immigration status, allowing license holders to renew every four or eight years, ensuring the standard license is accepted on par with the REAL ID license within our state, and changing the name of the non-REAL ID license from "Driving Authorization Card" to "New Mexico Driver's License." SB 278 coursed through the legislature with strong bi-partisan support.

"Good policy has triumphed over bad politics," said Marcela Díaz, Executive Director for Somos Un Pueblo Unido. "New Mexico's immigrant families and many of our allies refused to give in on this issue. After eight years of legislative wrangling, two lawsuits and large scale mobilizing, New Mexicans will finally get the rational driver's license system we should have had all along."

The passage of the proposal comes after eight years of political clashes at the legislature, two lawsuits against MVD for illegal and discriminatory practices in 2011 and 2018, and work by Somos, ACLU, the NM Coalition to End Homelessness and other civil rights organizations with MVD to ensure every New Mexican has access to an efficient and non-discriminatory process of obtaining a New Mexico driver's license.

"The process for getting a driver's license was grossly politicized under our former governor," said Peter Simonson, Executive Director at the ACLU of New Mexico. "Senate Bill 278 removes politics from the equation, creating sensible policy by removing pointless barriers like fingerprinting and short renewal periods. SB 278 will make it easier for all New Mexicans to get the authorization they need to drive."

"The passage of SB 278 is an important victory for people experiencing homelessness," said Hank Hughes, executive director of New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. "The new law greatly simplifies the process for getting a new ID or driver's license, which means people can more quickly access housing, jobs and services to get their lives back on track."

In 2016, the New Mexico Legislature overwhelmingly voted to create a two-tiered driver's license system, a REAL ID driver's license or ID for those who need one and a less onerous non-REAL ID driver's license or ID for everyone else regardless of immigration status.

Somos Un Pueblo Unido is a statewide immigrant-led civil and workers' rights organization with membership teams in eight counties and offices in Santa Fe and Roswell. Somos spearheaded a campaign in 2003 with law enforcement officials, victims' rights agencies, and faith and civil rights groups to require qualified undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.


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