New Mexico is one of the last battlegrounds when it comes to granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
It is one of three states that issues driver's license, regardless of whether applicants have proof of immigration status. Utah and Washington are the others.
Here is a snapshot of what has happened on this issue across the country.
Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, signed a bill in 2003 allowing any resident of California to obtain a driver’s license. He said this would enable people in the country illegally to drive to their jobs, support their families and buy auto insurance.
Immigrants cheered Davis at a public rally, but the celebration was short-lived.
Voters recalled Davis soon after. The new governor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, immediately launched a successful campaign to repeal the law.
A state with few immigrants, Maine nonetheless had a driver’s license law like New Mexico’s.
That changed in 2008 when Maine legislators approved an emergency law to tighten the system. It required applicants for a driver’s license to show two documents establishing proof of citizenship or legal immigration status.
Maine for a time stopped on-line license renewals to make sure the law would not be skirted.
Republican legislators last winter tried to repeal the law allowing people to receive driver’s licenses, regardless of immigration status. Democrats held them off after a fierce fight.
Two factors — money and agriculture — kept Washington’s licensing system in place.
A crackdown to ending licensing for illegal immigrants would have cost as much as $1.5 million for additional verification measures, legislators said. In a bad economy, the money was not readily available.
The second factor was Washington’s famous apple crop. Many lawmakers were worried about harvesting if illegal immigrants could not drive to the orchards.
The state once issued licenses to illegal immigrants, but did a turnabout because of scandal.
Proponents said the system helped improve public safety. Everyone who got a license passed driving exams, was more likely to purchase insurance and was added to the state database, making it easier for police to track them.
But criminals detected in 2005 caused legislators to repeal the law. High-profile fraud cases came to light in which illegal immigrants from other states obtained Tennessee licenses.
A more detailed story on this topic appears in this weekend's editions of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers.