Debate Over Driver's Licenses in New Mexico


POSTED: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - 9:31pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 - 12:08pm

New Mexico is one of only three states that doesn't require proof of legal residency to get a driver's license. And since the Motor Vehicle Division in New Mexico is seeing more foreign nationals getting licenses, some say it's time to change the law.

"It's a public safety issue more than anything else," said state representative Antonio Lujan of Dona Ana County.

That issue - you don't need to prove legal residency to get a drivers license. Back in 2003, that became the law in New Mexico. Today, its become the center of an immigration debate.

Lujan says, illegal immigrant or not, the motive behind the law is to make sure that everyone on the road - regardless of legal status - has car insurance.

"I don't know about you but if someone's going to hit me, I'd rather they have auto insurance than not," he said.

But there's been recent backlash against this bill and now, with Arizona's immigration law passed, the MVD in New Mexico is seeing a spike in foreign nationals getting licenses.

Lujan says it's all a blame game.

"In times of an economic downturn there are strong anti-immigrant feelings," he said.

New Mexico issued more than 10,000 licenses to immigrants in the first half of this year. Compare that to just over thirteen thousand for all of last year. State senator Rod Adair of Roswell, NM, says he saw this coming when he voted the bill down back in 2003.

"We have inadequate safeguards to ensure that the person is a legal resident in the United States," Adair said. "We made that argument then that we were going to make our state a magnet for illegal immigration."

He argues that because without a license, you can't get a job, get on a plane, or buy alcohol, the law will likely be revisited in the next legislative session. Even though New Mexico is only one of 3 states in the country that allows licenses for illegal immigrants, Lujan denies that it might encourage more illegal immigrants to come to the "Land of Enchantment."

"Our borders are not being overrun," Lujan said. "It's an issue that's being used as political bait."

MVD officials say that those applying for a driver's license still need to show two proofs of identification, like a passport (regardless of what country it's issued in), and two proofs of New Mexico residency, such as a utility bill or bank statement.

Also - to the motive behind this law - according to the Insurance Research Council, New Mexico has the highest rate of uninsured drivers in the country.


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No Papers, No License. They should not be in this country to begin with. If they want to come to the US, learn our language, how to read our language, our ways, our history and be Proud they are in America. Do not bash our country, fly the Mexican flag above Ours or BURN our Flag in Protest. They are more than welcome to come to the US that is made up of Immigrants from around the world, but do it the right way.

here in el El Paso is the same problem there given license and go to defensive driving and cant read english and I dont know how they can read the signs in front of them . Then they have mexican license plates or use a realative address . If they are illegal why isnt the border patrol getting them out . They should be going into places and arresting them . And you mention them being illegal adn they think they deserve free benefits , grants and food stamps and can live off us American .

Open your eyes. Look at reality. Immigrants don't come to America because they want to. If they come, it's to be able to support their families. Coming to a new country is not a pleasent experience and people would not do it if they didn't have a need. You guys are blind to old laws and conservative ideas. It's time to change.

You forgot to put illegal in front of immigrants. Just saying.

I don't know how proficient are illegal immigrants in driving. Some countries, they don't follow traffic regulations and most of them do not fully understand street or road signs and signals. They might have insurance but only limited coverage. Most of the accidents here in Arizona are caused by illegal miigrants, driving away from accidents. Now I do not see so many of them here, it is more safer to drive on our streets since they have self-deported either to Mexico or to New Mexico.

You are right, also look at this. If they can't read english then how can they read the road signs... Looks like we have alittle problem with that area of uncommon sense, that is why you go though the BS to learn english and alittle about the country you are about to call home. Not just jumping over the border everytime it seems right to do so. Also, what about all the drug runners that now have licenses in New Mexico so they can run them through with out too much troble... Hmmm.

Actually, I think it's a stroke of genius that New Mexico doesn't check citizenship. First, it keeps alot of illegals there, and less here.
Second, when someone presents you with a New Mexico drivers license, its great, because you can reasonably infer that MAYBE, the license holder is an illegal alien, and take appropriate action. If someone presents the license as proof of anything, you can reasonably turn that person down for whatever he/she wants until they PROVE citizenship to you.

Furthermore, if the issue was brought up "years ago", why pawn it off as just another reason for the jobless to complain? We clearly have a reason and, since it was brought up before, there's been a reason for a LONG time. I can't go to any country I want and get a license! Why is it that New Mexico, Washington and Utah can't seem to catch up? No documents? NO LICENSE! It's that simple! I sure hope there's no Bank of America next to the MVD! You're giving LEGAL ID to ILLEGAL immigrants. Wake UP!

Ok. Antonio Lujan clearly has no business being in politics. Does he not watch stories aired on local/national news about illegal immigrants saying they were leaving Arizona and going to New Mexico? What about the mayor of Santa Fe publicly inviting illegals in AZ to go to New Mexico because they wouldn't turn them away? HELLOOOO!!! It's not even about economic downturns here. It's about the law! There's a reason they are referred to as ILLEGAL immigrants! The recession just adds to the problem!

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