Judge blocks NM plan to verify immigrant licenses (4:18 p.m.)
Posted: 08/31/2011 04:18:34 PM MDT
SANTA FE - A New Mexico judge today issued a temporary restraining order halting Gov. Susana Martinez's residency certification program for up to 10,000 foreign nationals. District Judge Sarah M. Singleton of Santa Fe issued the order, based on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the governor's action. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed the suit last week.
Martinez's administration established special Motor Vehicle Division centers in Albuquerque and Las Cruces to determine if foreign nationals with New Mexico driver's licenses actually live in the state. State residency is a requirement to legally obtain a driver's license.
MALDEF and immigrant groups said the policy is discriminatory, as it forces people who have complied with the licensing law to travel long distances to prove themselves a second time.
Martinez countered New Mexico's system is rife with fraud because illegal immigrants can obtain New Mexico driver's licenses. Only two other states - Utah and Washington, have similar laws.
A full hearing is the next step in the judicial proceedings, but immigrant groups celebrated stoppage of the residency program.
"it's a great relief," said Marcela Diaz of the group Somos Un Pueblo Unido. "Many people simply could not comply with this certification program and they were afraid their driver's licenses were going to be canceled."
Diaz said numerous immigrants had hardships that made it difficult or impossible for them to travel to certification centers.
Martinez, a Republican, will push for legislation to repeal the licensing law for illegal immigrants during the special legislative session that starts Tuesday.
Please see Thursday's print edition for more details.
Santa Fe Bureau Chief Milan Simonich can be reached at email@example.com or 505-820-6898. His blog is at nmcapitolreport.com.