22 Feb

Three Senate Republicans tried to attach amendments that would revoke driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants to unrelated SB 9, which applies to driving restrictions for young drivers, during Monday afternoon’s floor session. But Senate Democrats voted against all the proposals, trumping their Republican counterparts in a vote of 25-14.

In a two-hour long debate, Republican and Democratic lawmakers hashed over whether the state should continue to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. The issue, strongly supported by Gov. Susana Martinez, is highly controversial this session. Several bills have been introduced in both chambers but they’ve all been tabled in committee.

“We are the only state along the border that allow driver’s licenses to illegal aliens,” said Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque. “Because this is such an important issue, it makes sense to bring it to the Senate floor and have everyone act on it.”

Ryan’s amendment required anyone who applied for a license to have a valid social security card. Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, also introduced an amendment that would insert the wording, “removing provisions that allow foreign nationals to apply for driver’s licenses,” in SB 9. Sen. Clinton Harden, R-Clovis, also wanted to require U.S. citizenship for anyone who applies for a driver’s license.

Senate Democrats said tacking amendments to a bill on the floor was a “common ploy.”

“They’re putting an amendment on a bill that has nothing to do with it besides the word, ‘driver’s license,’” said Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque. “The heart of the issue remains: if it’s not broken, why are we trying to fIx it?”

Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, the sponsor of SB 9, opposed all the amendments, saying it changed the original purpose of his proposal.

Earlier this month, a House committee tabled Rep. Bill Rehm’s so-called “compromise bill,” that would issue illegal immigrants a driver’s permit, not a license. Gov. Martinez also opposed the compromise.

The state has issued driver’s licenses to about 80,000 foreign nationals but not all of them are in the country illegally. ((3 are here legally)

New Mexico is one of the last three states to issue licenses to illegal immigrants. Utah and Washington are also undergoing similar debates.


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