Posted on May 19, 2011

Immigrant License Fraud Increases

Tim Maestas, KASA-TV (Santa Fe), May 17, 2011

New Mexico’s appeal to foreign criminals eager to exploit a state law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses is increasing.

However, state investigators are trying to blunt that trend by using new tools to track the license requests and identify possible fraud before the licenses can be issued.

“This problem is only growing bigger by the day,” said Alvan Romero, who heads up a team of fraud investigators for the state’s Taxation and Revenue Department. {snip}

A change in state law in 2003 allows foreign nationals to obtain drivers licenses in New Mexico regardless of their immigration status. However, the rules require applicants to live in the state of New Mexico.


At one point, up to 18 states issued drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. Now only New Mexico and Washington do it. And while instances of fraud are up in New Mexico, the state has tweaked its policies to be able to better sniff out the bad guys.


{snip} Applicants whose documents pass the test are issued a temporary driver’s license. The application is then passed on to Romero’s team of investigators, who many times catch things MVD agents may have missed.

According to a breakdown of phone numbers gathered during the application process, 37 percent of the 16,000 requests received between August 2010 and April 2011 came from out-of-state. Most came from Arizona, Georgia, and Texas.


Another breakdown shows some phone numbers used dozens of times to make appointments. One New Mexico number was used 228 times. A phone number with an Arizona area code was used 24 times.

A similar list shows the same pattern with New Mexico addresses. One address in Albuquerque was used more than 70 times in the application process.


Among those busted so far have been two Costa Rican nationals, who were arrested in April and September of last year, and accused of providing fake lease agreements so other Costa Rican nationals from New Jersey could get New Mexico licenses.

A group of Chinese nationals also were arrested late last year, accused of providing dozens of out-of-state Chinese immigrants with fraudulent residency documents.

Two Albuquerque women were arrested for selling their own addresses so 60 illegal immigrants could provide fake proof of residency.


More than 80,000 New Mexico licenses have been issued to foreign nationals since 2003. Last year alone, 24,000 were issued. That means many fakes are slipping through the system, Romero said.

“These licenses are out there,” Romero said. “They legitimize people. They’re very, very valuable.”