Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Once Again House Votes to Repeal Driver's License Law

Once again the state House of Representatives on Wednesday voted pass a political hot potato bill that would repeal a state law that allows the state to issue illegal immigrants driver's licenses.

Following a near four-hour debate, the House by a vote of 45-25, passed House Bill 103, sponsored by Rep. Andy Nuñez, I-Hatch. The bill is strongly supported by Gov. Susana Martinez.

The bill goes on to the Senate, which last year heavily amended a similar House bill, effectively killing it.
Wednesday’s vote showed Nuñez’s bill by a larger margin than last year. Three Democrats who voted against last year’s bill — Rep. Nick Salazar of Española, Henry “Kiki” Saavedra of Albuquerque and George Dodge of Santa Rosa — voted for HB 103.

A total of 11 Democrats joined all 34 House Republicans and independent Nuñez in backing the bill.
Santa Fe’s delegation — House Speaker Ben Luján, Luciano “Lucky” Varela, Jim Trujillo and Brian Egolf — all voted against the bill. All four are Democrats.

Elsa Lopez, an activist with Somos un Pueblo Unido, a local immigrant-rights organization, said her group wasn’t surprised by the vote. Though she’s hopeful that the Senate will once again stop the driver’s license bill, she said people in the immigrant community fear that the bill is only the first one to be aimed at immigrants. “It starts with driver’s licenses,” she said, noting that years before Arizona passed its controversial immigration bill, the state stopped issuing driver’s licenses to immigrants.

The Arizona law requires police officers to check the immigration status of individuals whom they've stopped and for whom they have "reasonable suspicion" of being in the United States illegally.

However, supporters of the bill denied this. “This is not about immigration, it’s only about public safety,” Martinez’s chief of staff told reporters shortly after the vote. He said the administration will not push a law like Arizona’s “There’s no desire to do immigration law. The governor has said in public that we’re not in the business of doing immigration law.”

Nuñez said the same thing. “The Arizona law is too harsh,” he said.

See tomorrow's New Mexican for more on this.