Bill will end practice of giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants

Santa Fe, NM – Today, a compromise bill that will stop giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants passed the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee by a 4-3 vote. House Bill 99 is sponsored by Reps. Paul Pacheco and Andy Nunez.

“I’m encouraged that our compromise passed its first committee,” Pacheco said. “We need to stop giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. It’s time for the Senate to start listening to New Mexicans and meet us in the middle with this compromise.”

For years, Republicans in the House have fought to repeal the dangerous law that allows illegal immigrants to receive driver’s licenses in New Mexico. Unfortunately, the legislation was stalled and killed by Democrats even after New Mexicans made it clear they want the law off the books.

The bill is an effort to compromise with Senate Democrats by giving those here illegally a driving privilege card while ensuring New Mexicans receive a secure, REAL ID compliant license. It is a true two-tier compromise.

“It’s unacceptable for us to continue giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants,” Nunez said. “New Mexicans don’t want illegal immigrants to have driver’s licenses. The Senate should act on this compromise – we need a solution and this is it.”

Under the proposal, two distinct forms of identification would be created: a secure license that is REAL ID compliant for citizens and residents with lawful immigration status and a driving privilege card for illegal immigrants. The two cards would have different colors and designs to distinguish the driver’s license from the driving privilege card. The license would be valid for federal identification purposes and the driving privilege card would not.

Driving privilege cards would only be issued to individuals who cannot prove lawful immigration status, and it would only be valid for one year. To qualify for a driving privilege card, illegal immigrants would have to prove that they have resided in New Mexico for at least two years before applying or provide evidence that they have filed personal income taxes with the state of New Mexico for the prior year. Applicants would be required to successfully complete a driver’s education course, pass a written and road test and submit fingerprints.

The compromise proposed by Pacheco and Nunez is similar to approaches used in states such as California, Colorado, Nevada and Utah.