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Groups sue New Mexico over license verification checks

The Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund and Albuquerque law firm Freedman Boyd filed suit Wednesday against the Secretary of the Taxation and Revenue Department in state District Court in Santa Fe arguing that the license verification program lacks statutory authority.

Gov. Susana Martinez directed TRD by executive order to send out letters to 10,000 of the estimated 85,000 foreign nationals with driver’s licenses asking them to come to Albuquerque to verify that they are still residents of New Mexico. About 2,000 have had appointments and about half have shown valid proofs of residency, according to state officials. MVD has since set up a second office for residency verification in Las Cruces.

The suit was filed on behalf of four state legislators and a woman from Silver City. They argue that the program violates the state and U.S. Constitutions on equal protection grounds since it targets a specific group of people. In addition, they argue that the program would need legislative approval, because it effectively asks some people to reapply for a driver’s license.

Martinez, who made the license issue a big part of her 2010 campaign and has unsuccessfully pushed the legislature to change the law, disagreed with the lawsuit.

“This out-of-state group may believe that New Mexicans do not have a right to know who is residing within their borders, and as such, they may not have a problem trying to protect the illegal immigrants who have come to New Mexico from throughout the country to get our driver’s license and leave,” Martinez Spokesman Scott Darnell said in a statement. “But New Mexicans have a decidedly different point of view, and so does Gov. Martinez.”

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