I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Senate’s passes immigrant driver’s license bill
The New Mexico Senate passed a bill Wednesday night that would still allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses, but stiffened some restrictions on provisions made by the Senate Judiciary Committee. An amendment that would have reverted the language of the bill to match what passed the House failed in the chamber.
The two chambers must pass identical legislation in order to send the legislation to Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk.
The legislation can now go back to the House. The two chambers can also settle their differences with a conference committee. Conference committees feature members from both the House and Senate and they reconcile differences between versions of bills that have passed both chambers.
The bill has now been amended four times but the most significant action was on an amendment that would have restored the language that passed the House last week. The Senate Judiciary Committee changed the bill significantly on Tuesday night, prompting a harsh response from Gov. Susana Martinez.
Martinez, who has made revoking driver’s licenses from illegal immigrants one of her top priorities, was critical of the final Senate legislation as well.
“It is unfortunate that the Senate Democratic leadership rejected a bi-partisan compromise to repeal the law giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, which had passed the House with a significant bi-partisan majority,” Martinez said in a statement. “The people of New Mexico sent a loud and clear message that they want this dangerous law repealed, but some in the legislature chose to shut out the voices of their constituents in favor of partisan political gamesmanship.”
Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup, said he voted for amended legislation to protect the interests of Navajo residents in New Mexico.
“The vote that I cast was to protect the Navajo people who might not have necessary documentation as stated in the original proposed legislation of HB 78,” Munoz said in a statement.
“We will still remain one of two states to allow driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants,” Sen. John Ryan, D-Albuquerque, said in his closing. Ryan also said, “We didn’t solve the problem tonight.”
Sen. Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, had three amendments clear the Senate. One was to make sure that undocumented immigrants serving in the military would still be able to get driver’s licenses in New Mexico. The other would change the time required to be in the state to receive a driver’s license from three months to six months. The third amendment would require foreign nationals to be fingerprinted to receive a license.
“My amendments were offered in good faith in addressing concerns about security issues,” said Jennings in a statement. “On an issue as difficult, emotional, and divisive as this one is it is important to keep our minds open to compromise.”
The vote on the bill was nearly party-line. Only Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Silver City, broke from party ranks and voted with Republicans.