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Monday, December 22, 2014

Driver’s license bill draws protest

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By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Participants at a vigil organized by New Mexico Dreamers in Action hold candles in support of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. About 50 people attended the event, which was held Friday night in front of the UNM Bookstore. They were protesting House Bill 606, a bill in the state Legislature that would prevent some undocumented immigrants in the state from getting driver’s licenses.

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Karla Molinar is a UNM student and an undocumented immigrant who has been living in the United States for more than five years now.

However, because she does not qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), she is at risk of losing her driver’s license.

“I came here when I was 13 years old,” she said. “When DACA passed, I thought I was already going to feel secure. But DACA asks that you come to the United States by June 15, 2007, but I came here July 20. So by one month I didn’t qualify for DACA.”

Molinar said she was one of about 50 people who protested House Bill 606 in front of the UNM Bookstore Friday night. She gave the Daily Lobo permission to publish her immigration status.

HB 606, endorsed by Gov. Susana Martinez, was introduced to the Legislature Feb. 14 and would take away undocumented immigrants’ ability to get driver’s licenses who did not qualify for DACA. The bill is still being discussed in the Legislature. The protest doubled as a vigil in solidarity of the immigrant community in New Mexico.

“I thought there weren’t many undocumented immigrants, and I thought no one else was going through what I went through,” she said. “But everyone told me that they’re not going to leave me behind. This is what this movement is about. It represents unity and family.”

DACA is a memorandum issued by President Obama that was implemented by the Department of Homeland Security last year. It allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. by June 15, 2007 and who meet certain requirements to be exempt from deportation for a period of time and to have some benefits.

Italia Aranda, state coordinator of New Mexico Dreamers in Action and a member of the UNM Dream Team, said she organized the vigil to express the Latino community’s grievances against the governor. She said the governor has been pursuing the bill since she took office.

“Year after year, ever since Susana Martinez has taken the power of governor in New Mexico, we’ve seen our community attacked just because of their immigration status,” she said.

Aranda, who is an undocumented immigrant, said the bill will ban people who do not have Social Security numbers from receiving driver’s licenses in the state. Aranda gave the Daily Lobo permission to print her immigration status. She said people who qualify for DACA will have to renew their driver’s licenses yearly if the bill passes.

The bill requires Social Security numbers for people trying to obtain a driver’s license to comply with the federal REAL ID Act.

This act, which goes into effect next year, mandates that all state-issued IDs, including driver’s licenses, conform to the federal ID standards set forth in the act.

Undocumented immigrants can get driver’s licenses in New Mexico as long as they pass a driving test and provide proofs of residence and identification. The state does not require anyone to provide Social Security numbers in their application.

Aranda said that because many undocumented immigrants in the state do not qualify for DACA, the bill would hurt the immigrant community.

“Students that are recipients of deferred action already have an SSN,” she said. “We still have a lot of people who don’t qualify for deferred action, and this bill will leave behind so many members of our community. “(Martinez is) calling it a compromise bill, but so many of our families are being left out.”

Aranda said driver’s licenses will ensure the safety of undocumented immigrants in the state.

“We share the road with citizens,” she said. “We want to make sure that people know who’s driving alongside them. We want to make sure we don’t get harassed by police just because we don’t have licenses.”

El Centro de la Raza program specialist Armando Bustamante said the bill will especially hurt undocumented students at UNM.

“We have students from the metro area and Santa Fe who drive here on a daily basis to come to school,” he said. “Without a driver’s license, they will not be able to come to their classes. We have some great undocumented students who do great work here who might not have that opportunity to continue their education.”

Bustamante said everyone, including undocumented immigrants, should be able to be move from place to place.

“It’s a human rights issue that people should be able to be mobile,” he said. “That’s something that we should be provided regardless of our immigration status.”

Aranda said she wants the governor to stop supporting the bill.
“The driver’s licenses are working right now,” she said. “Don’t mess with something that’s working.”