Special session to start Sept. 6; now get ready for another debate over driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants

From Capitol Report New Mexico.com - It’s official. Gov. Susana Martinez on Monday (Aug. 15) announced that the legislature’s special session will start on Sept. 6 at the Roundhouse. The lawmakers’ primary job is to settle on how to redistrict the state for national and local elections. But Martinez has also placed some controversial issues on the docket. Chief among them is her desire to eliminate the current state law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Supporters of the law, which was enacted under previous Gov. Bill Richardson, say that overturning the law won’t do anything to really keep illegal immigrants from driving and will therefore encourage illegal workers from coming forward should they get involved in traffic accidents.But Martinez and the law’s critics say that since New Mexico is one of just two states that allow illegal immigrants to legally drive (the other is Washington state), that New Mexico has become a magnet for improper licenses to be issued. Earlier this month, the state government sent out letters to 10,000 foreign nationals with driver’s licenses in New Mexico requring them to set up appointments to verify their legal status. More than 8,500 of those letters have gone unanswered, leading some to suspect that the license law has been abused. Earlier this year, in the legislature’s 60-day regular session, a bill aimed at repealing the law sparked furious debate. In a dramatic move, Rep. Andy Nunez (I-Hatch) forced a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, where it passed. But the bill died in the Senate. Polls show that a vast majority of New Mexicans oppose the current law but Democrats still control both the House and Senate. Read more



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