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N.M. Families Win Six-Year Fight to Preserve Driving Privileges

In New Mexico, immigrants won a long-running battle to keep driving this month, when policymakers enacted a new plan that allows adults who are documented and undocumented to continue applying for licenses. The New Mexico law also brings the state in line with federal regulations. Somos Un Pueblo Unido_logo_feature

On March 8, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed legislation that preserves state driver’s licenses for documented and undocumented residents until their licenses expire, according to the New Mexico-based social justice and immigrant rights organization Somos Un Pueblo Unido.

The act also complies with the federal REAL ID Act that calls for “minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards,” according to the Department of Homeland Security. New Mexico was among the states the department had focused on for not complying with the act, according to Somos.

Going forward, New Mexico will have two licenses, one that complies with the REAL ID Act and a driving authorization card that doesn’t, the group added.

“In the end we were able to protect our families (and) make sure we don’t have discriminatory licenses. And we made sure that 95 percent of our families will never be fingerprinted,” said Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido.

Diaz said the act also protects future immigrants. Under the new approach undocumented immigrants who apply for a driving authorization card will be required to submit fingerprints, but those will not be shared with federal or state law enforcement officials or agencies, according to a fact sheet about the new act by Somos Un Pueblo Unido.

The New Mexico state House and Senate had passed different plans to comply with the REAL ID Act. The House had passed legislation that would have called for 90,000 immigrants to carry driving cards that would show their immigration status, be renewed every year, and could have required fingerprints that could be fed to civil and criminal databases, according to Diaz.

“It really was a six-year effort by families who would not give up,” she said.

Somos Un Pueblo Unido, an immigrant-led organization, focuses on civil rights and helping workers throughout New Mexico. 

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