Pearce a roadblock to immigration reform

By Stephanie Maez (Guest Column, Las Cruces Sun News, Sept 7, 2014)

Many of us have been working for comprehensive immigration reform longer than most people have been with their current employer. We do this because we believe in the values that our country stands for, and because we know that immigration reform will in fact strengthen our nation.

We can all agree that the current patchwork of immigration policies and programs do not work. This broken system is one that politicians are unwilling to fix. The lack of will to resolve this issue is making the situation worse by the minute.

What are the facts of the current situation?

Continue reading

Our Resident Smart Aleck Talks about ALEC (VIDEO)

Sarah Kennedy has a feast with all the products made by corporations that dropped their sponsorships of ALEC last week.

Just in case you missed the national furor about the American Legislative Exchange Council over the last week, here are a few links to bring you up to speed:

The Nation: How ALEC Took Florida’s ‘License to Kill’ Law National

NY Times: Embarrassed by Bad Laws

McClatchy: Study: ALEC has ‘secretive influence’ in Missouri statehouse

Common Cause: ALEC Exposed, for 24 Hours

(Special Bonus) Here’s an oldie, but goodie from ClearlyNM about one of ALEC’s interventions in New Mexico:

Kochtopus Bill Has Its Tentacles In The New Mexico Legislature

And speaking of the Koch brothers, this just in from Center for Media and Demoracy: ALEC Gets Support From Koch-Funded Americans for Prosperity

Jennings says comprehensive immigration reform is needed as Senate passes compromise drivers license bill

By Matthew Reichbach

The state Senate voted late Monday evening to pass a bill that would address fraud and tighten residency requirements for undocumented immigrants to receive drivers licenses. The bill still allows undocumented immigrants to earn drivers licenses, a sticking point that likely dooms the bill in both the House and from Governor Susana Martinez.

The bill passed on a 27-15 vote.

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings (D-Roswell) said that this bill would be effective in stopping the instances of fraud that associated with the program that provides upwards of 80,000 licenses to drivers in New Mexico. New Mexico is one of three states that allows undocumented immigrants to legally drive.

He also said that it is not the place of New Mexico to create immigration policy.

“Our problem is a failed policy of the United States government,” Jennings said in a floor speech. He said the Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Sen. Steve Fischmann (D-Las Cruces) agreed and said, “We keep falling into the trap in our current immigration policy of making criminals out of everybody.”

Sen. Rod Adair (R-Roswell) disagreed, saying, “Drivers licenses are not a right, they are privileges.”

Martinez has indicated that she will not sign a bill if it allows an undocumented immigrant to legally drive in New Mexico. Even a Republican floor substitute brought by Sen. Bill Sharer (R-Farmington) would have failed to meet Martinez’s standard.

Sharer said that his proposed substitute is similar to the Utah system, which allows undocumented immigrants to receive drivers cards that do not function as identification for anything other than driving. In Utah, the drivers cards are clearly different than drivers licenses and state that they cannot be used for identification.

A similar proposal to Sharer’s amendment failed in the House failed on a 33-37 vote.

The Senate bill now heads to the House, where prospects are dim as time runs out in the session which ends on Thursday at noon.

In many ways, the drivers license debate is echoing the debate of last year, as Clearly New Mexico (and many others) previously predicted.

Hundreds rally at Roundhouse in support of drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants

By Matthew Reichbach

A nun participating in the protest against repealing the law allowing undocumented immigrants to earn drivers licenses. Photo by Matthew Reichbach

Hundreds of immigrants and supporters of immigrant drivers licenses rallied outside the Roundhouse Tuesday morning hoping to send a message to Gov. Susana Martinez. The rally, so far the largest at the Roundhouse in the 2012 session, included support from the Catholic Church and organized labor.

A theme among the protests was that keeping the current drivers license policy promotes greater public safety by giving law enforcement a current and complete database of driving and other offenses.

“You drink, you drive, who knows?” was a popular chant, referring to the popular anti-DWI campaign, “You drink, you drive, you lose.”

Allen Sanchez, Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, speaking at drivers license rally. Photo by Matthew Reichbach

The Catholic Church has been a staunch opponent of the movement to repeal the law that allows undocumented immigrants to earn New Mexico drivers licenses.

Allen Sanchez, the Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoed his speech from a similar rally in September.

“I have a message,” Sanchez told the crowd. “Governor, Jesus was an immigrant!”

Sanchez said that this is a “gospel issue” for the Catholic bishops in New Mexico and said that the legislature should instead be focused on other priorities during the session — notably funding schools and creating jobs.

Daniel Manzano, Director of Policy and Communication for the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said that keeping drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants was important for his group for three main reasons.

For example, it allows victims of domestic violence to be able to drive away from abusive husbands “safely and legally.” He also said that driver licenses would allow these women to be financially independent. He also said the drivers licenses count as a form of identification for the courts, which is necessary to get an order of protection.

“The weather can’t even stop us today,” Manzano said, referring to the overcast skies and occasional flakes of snow dropping onto the large crowd.

Odds and Ends

  • A clever noisemaker that was handed out to many protesters was made out of two plastic cups taped together with rocks inside.
  • A chant that the protesters repeated while marching around the Roundhouse and in front of the rally’s stage was, “Susana, escucha, somos en la lucha!” Loosely translated, that means, “Susana, listen, we are in the struggle!”
  • The most popular headwear at the rally was Los Angeles Dodgers hats. The Dodgers are popular among the Mexican-American community in large part because of Fernando Valenzuela, the legendary Mexican lefthander who won 173 games in 17 big league seasons.
  • For more photos, see my Flickr set.

Round 3 on Drivers License Debate Coming

By Matthew Reichbach

Governor Susana Martinez promised today to bring back the controversial and time-consuming issue of repealing a law that permits undocumented immigrants to receive New Mexico drivers licenses. Significantly, both the pro- and anti-repeal sides on this question claim that their respective positions better protect the public’s safety.

Martinez, and proponents of the repeal, claim that immigrants from other countries come to the state for the purpose of getting drivers licenses, making this an issue of national security as well as public safety. Conversely, opponents of repeal say that letting undocumented immigrants, who live and work in New Mexico, earn drivers licenses makes the roads safer through accident and fatalities reduction, lower insurance rates, and simply providing law enforcement with a complete database of who is driving and what their driving record is.

The Senate and House could not come to an agreement during the 2011 regular session on a bill and the session ended without one being sent to Governor Martinez’s desk. The Senate version would have allowed undocumented immigrants to earn drivers licenses, but would have clamped down on fraud. That bill would also have required foreign nationals to have their fingerprints taken in order to receive a drivers license.

This fall’s special session saw Martinez once again bring the repeal up in the face of heavy opposition. The primary purpose of the special session was ostensibly the daunting once-in-a-decade task of redistricting. Nevertheless, Martinez put the drivers license issue, along with several other non-redistricting related items, on her call.

Despite her action, the legislature did not take up the drivers license issue during the special session, although there was extensive media attention on the issue, both in the state and nationally.

Now, once again, the issue will be back for a third time under Martinez.

Washington is the other state that issues drivers licenses without regard to the applicant’s immigration status. Utah has adopted the approach of creating a two-tier system, with undocumented immigrants allowed to receive a “driving privilege card.”

Martinez has rejected such a two-tier system.

Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Deming), who supports the Governor on repeal, nonetheless is concerned that the debate on such a controversial question would dominate the upcoming session— one limited to just 30 days with a focus on passing a state budget .

“I’d hate for it to dominate. I personally think we have more pressing problems,” Smith told New Mexico Capitol Report’s Milan Simonich.

House committee debates what bills allowed

By Matthew Reichbach

The House Rules Committee ruled Monday morning that two bills relating to driver’s licenses are germane to Gov. Susana Martinez’s proclamation. Both votes were on party-line votes, with Democrats voting that the bills are germane and Republicans voting the bills are not germane.

The Rules Committee decides whether bills are allowed to be heard during the special session. In special sessions, only legislation that is on the governor’s call can be heard.

Two bills relating to driver’s licenses were ruled germane by the committee. One was carried by Speaker of the House Ben Lujan, D-Nambe, and another was carried by Rep. Thomas Anderson, R-Albuquerque. Lujan’s bill is similar to the compromise bill the Senate passed in the regular session, while Anderson’s bill mimics the Utah legislation which creates a two-tiered license system, one for undocumented immigrants and one for legal immigrants and citizens.

The votes on the legislation came after the lawmakers on the panel spoke extensively to Raúl Burciaga, the director of the Legislative Council Service, on what should be considered germane in the special session and how closely the lawmakers would have to adhere to Martinez’s call.

Some believed every provision in Martinez’s proclamation must be followed to the exact letter, while others, such as Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, cited Mason’s Rules of Law says that the governor “is limited in what she can do” in mandating what can and cannot be discussed.

Another constant theme during the hearing was Republicans saying that Governor Martinez had the constitutional right to add all the subjects she wanted to the legislation while Democrats said that adding more subjects to the call on a special session that included redistricting was unprecedented.

“The constitution doesn’t put a special session for redistricting, it just has special sessions,” Minority Leader Tom Taylor, R-Farmington.

Burciaga said that the Legislative Council Service was unable to find any case of any governor adding other legislation to special sessions that addressed redistricting.

“Every governor has felt it is so important that it should be the only subject that is addressed,” Lujan said.

On Lujan’s bill, Rep. Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, expressed concern that it would not meet the requirements set forth in the Real ID Act.

The controversial Real ID Act has been pushed back a number of times.

Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque, said, “The governor has the power to call a special session, we have the power to determine what’s germane.”

Rep. Ray Begaye, D-Shiprock, had three pieces of legislation tabled, with his own agreement, for not being germane to the governor’s call.

The two bills that were ruled germane will now move on to other committees to be considered.

Rally opposes Martinez, drivers license repeal

By Matthew Reichbach


Rally against repeal of immigrant driver's license law

Nearly 200 enthusiastic opponents of the attempt to take away drivers licenses from undocumented immigrants rallied at the State Capitol today. The supporters waved signs, chanted slogans and were in complete opposition to Governor Susana Martinez on the driver’s license law.

Father Juan Montoya of Alamogordo was perhaps the most critical of Martinez.

Father Juan Montoya

Of the driver’s license repeal, Montoya said, “It’s a disgrace to the name Martinez. Maybe you should change your name.”

After a short pause, he said, “How about Palin?”

Legislators, all Democrats, who oppose Martinez’s hard push to repeal drivers licenses for undocumented workers were also at the rally.

Rep. Moe Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said that there was a reason that Arizona was divided from New Mexico.

“We are not Arizona,” Maestas said, echoing signs held by supporters surrounding the stage.

Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, said that since he has been in office the driver’s license issue hasn’t been a problem. He said that’s “because its a political issue” and not about public safety as Martinez has claimed.

The Catholic Church has also put its considerable weight behind opposing the repeal of the law. Allen Sanchez, Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops again reiterated the bishops opposition to the bill and urged Martinez to “cross the bridge together to compromise.”

In a rally on the opening day of the session, Sanchez said the Catholic Bishops would support the Senate compromise that passed during the regular session but was flatly rejected by Republican legislatures and Martinez as dead-on-arrival.

Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, mentioned the support of the bishops, saying “We are not only on God’s side thanks to the bishops, we are on the people’s side.”

Ortiz y Pino also said taking drivers licenses away from parents who need to drive to take their kids to school “is an immoral act, no matter what the law says.”

The rally came a day after Martinez first definitively acknowledged that her parents came to the United States illegally. Martinez was speaking to KLUZ-TV, a spanish-speaking station. The governor’s spokesman said that Martinez had no contact with her grandfather, as he left the family when her father was young.

Two Tea Party counter demonstrators at today's rally


Redistricting takes backseat in pre-session rallies

By Matthew Reichbach

There was considerable action throughout the Roundhouse even before the special session officially kicked off at noon — and very little of it was related to redistricting. Perhaps this was a signal that the other issues added to the special session agenda will hijack the decennial affair that is mandated by the Constitution to redraw new district lines.

A coalition of groups called New Mexico Can Do Better, which supports the law that allows immigrants to earn drivers licenses in New Mexico, held a rally in the Capitol Rotunda and an hour later a coalition of tea party groups from throughout the state rallied outside the Roundhouse.

Allen Sanchez, representing the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the bishops support the current driver’s license law and noted that Jesus was an immigrant.

“The bishops don’t always get involved but we do when it is an ethical or moral issue,” Sanchez said at the press conference. “This is an ethical issue.”

The tea party groups rallied to protest the law and support the policies that Governor Susana Martinez has added to the special session docket. A common theme among speakers at the tea party was to cut spending.

Therese Cooper, co-founder of the East Mountain Tea Party, likened spending by the state legislature to slavery.

“They have enslaved our state. They have enslaved our people,” Cooper said to cheers from the crowd.

Many speakers at the tea party said that if the legislators did not listen to the will of the people, they would be voted out of office.

The rally by New Mexico Can Do Better was focused on the drivers license issue.

Jose Manuel Escobedo, the Policy Director of the Border Network for Human Rights, said that “The law that we have now is a common sense law.”

Sanchez was more personal and mentioned a story about a couple who entered the country without a visa, but then went on to work hard so that their children could have a better life. He then went on to say that they were Susana Martinez’s great-grandparents. The revelation about Martinez’s great-grandparents made national headlines.

The two collections of groups disagreed on whether or not the law made the roads safer.

Tea party members said that studies have shown that the driver’s license law has not reduced the percentage of uninsured drivers on New Mexico roads.

However, putting aside the dispute over the numbers of uninsured motorists, a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that unlicensed drivers are almost five times more likely to be in a fatal crash than are licensed drivers

Sheryl Bohlander of Club 54, a conservative group from Santa Fe, said that those who support the current law “will use fear and emotion to push their agenda.”

Another speaker likened the debate to that of good and evil.

Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, who is running for U.S. Senate, also spoke at the tea party rally and noted that he supports Martinez’s initiatives during the special session, saying that it would be more beneficial to taxpayers to do more than just the redistricting during the special session.

Allen Sanchez led the groups in calling on Martinez to compromise with the legislature, chanting in the Roundhouse hoping that Martinez could hear on the fourth floor.