Senate Breaks Impasse On Immigrants’ Drivers Licenses

STATE News:

  • Strongly Bipartisan Compromise Bill Passes Senate On 35-5 Vote

SANTA Fe – With the broad support of both Democrats and Republican members, the New Mexico Senate today passed compromise legislation that successfully resolves the complex issue of undocumented immigrants drivers’ licenses and state compliance with the federal REAL ID law.

The compromise was hammered out by two of the Senate’s most respected leaders, Republican Floor Leader Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Chaves, Curry, and Finance Committee Chairman, Democratic Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Luna. Senate Bill 653 (SB 653) ‘Two-Tiered Driver’s Licenses’ now goes to the House of Representatives for that chamber’s consideration.

“Today Democratic Senators and Republican Senators under the leadership of Senator Ingle came together on a bipartisan basis to pass this important bill. We are tired of wrestling with this issue for the last five years.  SB 653 is a strong compromise bill. Both Senator Ingle and I had to change our initial positions on this issue to arrive at it,” Smith said. “The REAL ID issue surfaced during our discussions and is reflected in this compromise measure. Our New Mexico current drivers licenses are not REAL ID compliant, but they will be if SB 653 is enacted. We hope the Administration recognizes the strong support indicated by the Senate’s strongly bipartisan vote today, with only five dissenting votes cast. We decided to find a bipartisan compromise that adopts the successful Utah model. We felt it necessary to unite our state, and not divide it any further.”

Under the bill’s changes to the Motor Vehicle Code, the same licenses that would be given to United States (U.S.) citizens, may be applied for by non-U.S. citizens. These could not be used by federal agencies for official federal purposes, but would allow for legal operation of vehicles in the state. Non-U.S. applicants would not need to provide proof of lawful presence in the U.S. or a social security number with their applications; they could instead present a tax identification number or passport. A second tier, Federal REAL ID compliant licenses, will also be issued to U.S. citizens or legal immigrants who apply for them.

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