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New Mexico’s Gov. Martinez Determined to Keep Pushing Repeal of Driver’s Licenses

by Van Le on 01/21/2014 at 12:40pm

What is this, 2010?

The New Mexico legislative session begins today, and one of the issues on the agenda is, unfortunately, Governor Susana Martinez‘s ongoing push to repeal driver’s licenses for immigrants living in the state.

It’s an issue that Martinez had been dogged about since becoming Governor in 2011, and one that has earned her much criticism, since she is the nation’s first Latina governor and leads the nation’s most Latino state.  As a Democratic state representative told the New York Times about her in 2013:

Being the first Hispanic governor in a state that takes pride in its Hispanic heritage could have been a powerful force in bringing people together.  She chose instead to pander to the anti-immigrant sentiment in her party, and that’s her record.

Martinez’s insistence on going after immigrant driver’s licenses seems especially tone-deaf considering how much support has been expressed for immigrants and immigration reform in the last year.  It is no longer 2010 or 2011, when states like Arizona and Alabama were passing incredibly punitive, harsh anti-immigrant laws.  Such legislation has since been largely struck down by the courts — and states have begun to swing the other way.  As the Wall Street Journal noted today, the latest trend in state legislatures has been passing bills aimed at integrating immigrants, rather than cracking down on them:

Last week, New Jersey joined at least 18 states in approving laws or policies allowing undocumented youngsters to pay in-state college tuition, rather than the higher out-of-state rate. Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, said at a bill-signing that the measure would maximize the investment the state has made in undocumented students, whose K-12 schooling is financed by New Jersey taxpayers.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill last April to give in-state tuition rates to Colorado high school graduates in the country illegally.

At the other side of the country last week, the House in Washington state passed a measure that would enable undocumented college students to qualify for state financial aid, a measure the state Senate is expected to back.

Colorado, Minnesota and Oregon also extended in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants last year. Meantime, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon and Vermont approved access to driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, bringing to 13 the number of states that allow it.

States across the country are moving in the right direction.  Why isn’t Gov. Martinez — who is supposed to be one of her party’s envoys to Latino voters, at a time when they desperately need support from beyond their base — doing the same?

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