Posted on August 25, 2011

License Access in New Mexico Is Heated Issue

Marc Lacey, New York Times, August 23, 2011

New Mexico is one of just two states, the other being Washington, that allow in-state residents who are illegal immigrants to get the same driver’s licenses given to citizens, as long as they pass a written test and successfully show they can turn and stop and park.

But critics, led by the newly elected governor, Susana Martinez, say that the lenient licensing law attracts illegal immigrants from far and wide who fraudulently claim they live in New Mexico in order to get identification cards that allow them to settle into American life.


Meanwhile, to prove her point, Ms. Martinez has been drawing attention to each new case of fraud.

In May, charges were filed against a man who advertised his services securing licenses for illegal immigrants in Spanish-language newspapers in New York. The Border Patrol arrested him in Albuquerque in the company of illegal immigrants from Ecuador and Colombia, whom he was helping to become licensed drivers in New Mexico.


In the meantime, her [Ms. Martinez’] administration has sent letters to 10,000 citizens of foreign countries across New Mexico in an effort to gauge the extent of the fraud problem.

Those who received the letters were told that they must appear at a motor vehicles office in Albuquerque within 30 days to prove to an auditor that they actually reside in the state or face cancellation of their licenses.

About a third of the 10,000 letters were returned to the state, which the governor’s office says shows a serious fraud problem. Of the 2,000 or so face-to-face meetings that have been held, about half the people have been able to prove they are in-state residents, state officials say.