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.

That Was the Week That Was: NM Leg Wk#3

The editor apologizes to Claus and our readers for posting this a day late.  Nonetheless, in the interests of preserving the historical record of this riveting legislative session, here it is.

by Claus Whiteacre

In week three of the New Mexico Legislature, legislative committees got very busy and Gov. Susana Martinez issued another yet another executive order right in tune with the themes from her election campaign.

In the wake of the Super Bowl, a football analogy seems appropriate. By repeatedly running the executive order route, the Governor appears to be attempting end runs around the legislative branch of government – as well as the law. And on three of these plays, she has run afoul of those black-robed refs in the third branch of government — the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The Walkout

On Monday before either chamber had convened, the Republican members of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee walked out in the middle of a meeting. The revolt was led by Rep. Don Bratton (R-Hobbs).

While it is common for individual members of committees to talk to the press after a hearing, the fact that all of Republican committee members joined together after the walkout to craft a collective statement to the press brings up some questions.

The united statement spun the walkout as being unplanned and said the Republicans were just trying to represent the “people” in what they considered an unfair hearing.  However, it is worth noting that joining the walkout were a significant number of industry lobbyists. Presumably, this was done to remind us all that corporations are people too — albeit artificial ones.

It remains to be seen whether we will see more “unplanned” walkouts in the days ahead.

The Executive Order on Immigration

Later in the week, Gov. Martinez issued an executive order mandating that state police officers question criminal suspects about their immigration status. The executive order revoked a policy put in place by former Gov. Bill Richardson in 2005.

On Thursday morning, more than a dozen Democratic senators and representatives called a noon press conference in the Rotunda to denounce Gov. Martinez’s executive order.

“There are two things to take away from this: We are not Arizona and it is important that no one in this state will fear approaching a police officer,” said Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque).

In what turned into a duel of competing press conferences, Martinez scheduled one of her own at 12:30 PM to talk about the gas outages throughout the state.

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Hasta la Vista, Lou Dobbs

Departed CNN host Lou Dobbs

Departed CNN host Lou Dobbs

Embattled CNN host Lou Dobbs stepped down last night from his long-running show and today Clearly New Mexico joins the chorus of voices who are saying good riddance.

With his anti-immigrant bluster and endorsement of falsehoods like the Obama “birther” controversy, Dobbs shamed the original “all news” network and trashed his long and distinguished journalism career.

In bidding adios to Dobbs, we can’t be as funny as the The Onion, who, in the fake news story  “U.S. Deports Lou Dobbs,” reports that Dobbs’ real name is Luis Miguel Salvador Aguila Dominguez and that he’s been living illegally in the U.S. since 1981.

And we can’t be as whimsical as the Columbia Journalism Review, who writes that Dobbs “has been sent to a nice farm upstate, where he will be free to run and jump and play and practice advocacy journalism.”

And we can’t be as comprehensive as the Huffington Post, who compiled a handy video treasury of Dobb’s “Most Scandalous Moments.”

But we are glad Dobbs is gone. And just to get out in front of those who might say this smacks of censorship – it doesn’t. Because, you see, as Dobbs continued his one-sided, unfounded attacks, ratings for his show and for CNN overall plunged.

“It used to be considered a really premium spot,” Gary Carr, executive director of national broadcast for New York- based media-buying firm TargetCast tcm, told Bloomberg.com last month. As the show strayed from business “into so many issues of his own, I sense that people aren’t lining up with Lou Dobbs anymore.”

So, Lou Dobbs can SAY whatever he wants.

But CNN found out that Americans don’t have to buy it.

It’s Profiling and It’s Wrong!

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus released a letter last week, urging President Obama to terminate the controversial 287(g) program administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The 287(g) program allows the DHS to partner with local law enforcement to “perform immigration law enforcement functions.”

News of the release reminded me of a great post I read earlier this week by the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) that highlighting the connection between race and politics in New Mexico. Robby Rodriguez said it best in this statement:

“If we’re not diligent about viewing the potential racial impacts of our decisions, we are definitely going to increase the amount of racial disparity that exists within our state.”

Being a minority/majority state, we have a responsibility to be a leader in establishing fair immigration policies, tax policies, and the like that aim to benefit everyone in the state. At a time when budgets and services are being cut, valuable resources that should be reserved for public safety are being diverted to policies that inevitably lead to racial profiling. Repealing bad policies like 287(g) is a way to make sure that the limited resources in our communities are being used properly and, more importantly, that people’s rights are being protected regardless of the color of their skin.