COMMENTARY: The list of citizens, commerce organizations, lawmakers and some of the governor’s most staunch supporters is growing for the State Senate’s bipartisan solution to become compliant with federal Real ID regulations. Gov. Susana Martinez’s steadfast refusal to put this issue behind us and accept a proposal that can satisfy the citizens of New Mexico must come to an end.
Even some of her most ardent supporters, including the Albuquerque Journal and the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, among others, have each publicly supported the Senate’s amended version of House Bill 99 (HB 99), Driver’s License Issuance and Federal Real ID. This widely accepted bipartisan compromise began last year when two of the Senate’s most senior members, Senator John Arthur Smith (D-35-Doña Ana, Hidalgo, Luna & Sierra) and Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle (R-27-Chaves, Curry, DeBaca, Lea & Roosevelt), decided that the issue needed to be resolved.
The Albuquerque Journal in its Feb. 4 editorial urges all of us to “put aside less serious ancillary concerns that could derail this important legislation when it is so close to the finish line.” One of these concerns is the issue of fingerprints, which 10 other states that issue driver’s privileges to undocumented immigrants do not require. The original version of HB 99 required fingerprints and was modeled after Utah’s current law, which required fingerprints be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) “Next Generation Identification and Identification Services.”
The FBI blocked Utah’s request to access the database and would likely do the same if New Mexico were to require it. With a compromise palatable to the majority of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the Senate, and quite possibly the House of Representatives, the Journal’s editorial further states, fingerprinting is “not required by Real ID, and of the 10 other states or jurisdictions that provide driving privileges to undocumented immigrants … such a requirement could be added in a later year if it turns out to be necessary. …”
A Roundhouse columnist with The Santa Fe New Mexican is also behind the Senate’s approach to becoming Real ID compliant and chimes in: “The Senate’s plan to settle the long debate on driver’s licenses also would help police officers. Martinez and House Republicans want immigrants to be fingerprinted as a condition of receiving a driving authorization card. Facial imaging on licenses already provides better security than would the additional expense of fingerprinting.”
Because of the two senators’ sincere commitment to finding a compromise, we are closer today to finally resolving this issue than we have been in many years. Despite the political rhetoric and misinformation generated from the governor’s office that has disingenuously clouded the issue of Real ID compliance, we can now focus our attention on issues that affect all New Mexicans, like the current state of our economy and the lack of jobs.
The State Senate is committed to resolving this issue and making it clear to all New Mexicans that they now have a personal choice to comply with Real ID criteria or to opt out, while treating all drivers with the dignity and respect that has been the hallmark of our great state.
We encourage the governor and her allies in the House of Representatives to join many of those who initially opposed allowing driver’s privileges to undocumented immigrants and support the Senate’s amendments to HB 99. It is time to move past REAL ID and focus on the real issues confronting our state.
This commentary was submitted by 20 Democratic members of the N.M. Senate: Joseph Cervantes, Carlos R. Cisneros, Daniel A. Ivey-Soto, Linda M. Lopez, Richard C. Martinez, Cisco McSorley, Howie C. Morales, George K. Muñoz, Gerald Ortiz y Pino, Majority Whip Michael Padilla, President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen, John Pinto, Nancy Rodriguez, Clemente Sanchez, Majority Floor Leader Michael S. Sanchez, John M. Sapien, Benny Shendo, Jr., William P. Soules, Mimi Stewart, and Peter Wirth.