Republicans want to repeal driver's license law for illegal immigrants
Two Republican legislators are scheduled to receive hearings this afternoon on their bills to repeal the 2003 law that enables illegal immigrants to obtain New Mexico driver's licenses.
Reps. Paul Pacheco, right, and Bill Rehm, both retired police officers from Albuquerque, will present their bills to the House Labor and Human Resources Committee.
The chance that either bill will advance from the committee is almost zero. Chairing the panel is Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, perhaps the most passionate advocate of the licensing law.
House Speaker Ken Martinez, another staunch supporter of preserving the law, serves on the committee, which is controlled by Democrats, 5-4.
For the past two years, Republicans in the Legislature have argued that Democrats were out of touch by defending a law that grants licenses to immigrants who are in the state unlawfully.
But Illinois just approved a law similar to New Mexico's. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, said public safety was the reason.
"This common-sense law will help everybody, regardless of their background, learn the rules of the road, pass a driving test and get insurance. As a result, our roads will be safer, we will create more access to job opportunities and our economic growth will be strengthened," Quinn said Monday on signing the bill.
Democrats in New Mexico have made similar arguments for years. But Republican Gov. Susana Martinez calls the licensing law "dangerous" and a magnet for fraud. She campaigned on repealing it.
Repeal bills cleared the New Mexico House of Representatives the last two years but failed in the Senate. Democrats have since strengthened their advantage in the House to 38-32.
If either Pacheco's or Rehm's bill could advance from committees to the full House, it would have a chance of passing. But the odds of that happening have lessened because Democrats are now better positioned on committees and to ward off a move to force the issue to a floor vote.
Pacheco's repeal proposal is House Bill 132 and Rehm's is House Bill 161.