Demonstrators at the Roundhouse on Tuesday said issues surrounding driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants are not issues of policy, but of human rights.
More than 600 people, including several UNM student groups, attended the Immigration Day of Action at the legislature to protest Governor Susana Martinez’s proposed repeal of a 2003 state law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
“I believe that everyone should have a driver’s license because we need it to drive to see our beloved ones, to (drive to) schools to get our education in order to support our families. Having a driver’s license is very important,” UNM student and protester Jaen Ugalde said.
Ugalde is a member of New Mexico Dreamers in Action, a statewide, student-led organization whose mission is equal access to higher education for all students regardless of immigration status.
Graduate student Christopher Ramirez, one of NM DIA’s organizers, said he attended the event because legislative decisions regarding driver’s licenses affect everyone in the community, not just undocumented immigrants.
“…It is an issue of being able to go to schools, being able to go to work, being able to go to church, but also being able to be fully involved in our communities,” he said. “Without the licenses, not only can we not drive, but also there are immigrants who wouldn’t be able to be identified, so it’s matter of public safety, it is a matter of human rights…”
In addition to Martinez’s proposed repeal, Rep. Andy Nuñez (Declined to state, Doña Ana) proposed HB 103, a bill that would prohibit people without a Social Security number from getting driver’s licenses.
The bill declares the state’s driver’s license situation “an emergency.”
Nuñez said New Mexico is one of only two states that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. The other state is Washington.
He said the bill does not take away the current licenses of individuals without Social Security numbers, but will prevent individuals without Social Security numbers from applying for licenses in the future.
“We’re not going to go out and look for people who have driver’s licenses now that they shouldn’t have them,” Nuñez said. “That’s not in the bill.”
Robin Gould, staff representative from the Communications Workers of America union said the labor union supports immigrant rights.
“We have a lot of workers who are immigrants, and they need protection on the job,” she said. “Taking away the driver’s licenses is not a good idea.”