Halted effort to track undocumented aliens using drivers licenses cost $177,000
This July, Governor Susana Martinez, a descendant of illegal immigrants, implemented what she called a residency certification program — an effort to review the authenticity of foreign nationals’ drivers licenses. The state currently has about 85,000 licenses issued to foreign nationals.
State district judge Sarah Singleton issued a preliminary injunction against the program back on September 22. Two days ago, the governor’s office acknowledged that the frozen program has thus far cost the state $177,000.
A judge halted the program on the grounds of unconstitutionality after the program had the DMV send letters to 10,000 randomly selected foreign nationals. The letter ordered the receiver to make an appointment with the MVD and produce documents proving residency, and the program was criticized as a sting operation.
Despite the injunction, Judge Singleton has allowed that the Department of Taxation and Revenue may still follow up on letters returned as undeliverable and take action against drivers found to have obtained licenses under false pretenses.
So far, the state has spent $63,000 on temporary clerks employed to handle appointments, $49,000 on a contract with an Albuquerque-based call center to arrange the appointments, $29,000 for temporary clerks to handle questions over the phone and do data entry, $14,000 for phone and data lines, $11,000 on overtime and travel and another $11,000 on postage, office supplies, furniture and miscellaneous items.
Martinez had hoped the program would prove that the state had become a magnet for illegals. As of the end of September, 3,365 letters had been returned; and roughly 2,600 drivers had actually made appointments—roughly half of these had their licenses certified.
Albuquerque attorney David Urias, one of four lawyers who sued the MVD along with attorneys from MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, termed the program “a broad fishing expedition . . . that was not really warranted.”