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N.M. Bishops back law allowing foreign nationals with residency to obtain driver’s license

The Roman Catholic Bishops of New Mexico support the current driver’s license law allowing foreign nationals to obtain a driver’s license with New Mexico residency, and oppose Gov. Susana Martinez’ push to change the law.

From their op-ed:

We support extending driver’s license privileges only to residents of the state. We are in favor of allowing individuals without Social Security numbers to obtain licenses provided that they present other acceptable forms of identification, such as a valid passport, consular identification card, or other recognized government-issued documents, currently required by present law. The present law, when enforced, addresses the issue of fraudulent documents. We have in the past called for a compromise that can strengthen the law and yet issue driver s licenses. We continue to call on the Legislature and the governor to work diligently on a compromise. We believe that this is in the interest of all New Mexicans, and our rationale for this position is as follows:

Licenses for all drivers make our highways safer, since unlicensed drivers have not been tested and, therefore, present a potential danger to everyone using our roads. In addition, unlicensed drivers tend to raise everyone s insurance rates since the former cannot obtain auto insurance.

Licensed drivers make our communities safer because they are more easily identified and tracked. If a law enforcement officer stops an unlicensed driver, that individual might easily give a false name. Such names would not be found in the state’s database, thus undermining law enforcement s efforts to determine whether there are outstanding warrants or other matters related to the person in question.

Repeal of the current driver’s license law would detract from limited state resources at a time of economic crisis. We want our law enforcement and court resources focused on the apprehension of dangerous criminals, rather than on the detention of normally hard-working immigrants.

And, finally, without legal access to driver’s licenses, immigrant workers would not be able to travel to their places of employment, undermining the economic stability of their families as well as the many New Mexico businesses, farms, and ranches that depend on their labor.

According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Catholics make up about 26 percent of New Mexico’s population. Religious leaders in Alabama have criticized the state’s tough immigration law that makes it a crime to knowingly transport, rent property or harbor illegal immigrants, saying that it criminalizes parts of their Christian ministry.

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