It’s the most basic form of identification — allowing its owner to do everything from travel across the country to check books out of their local library — the driver’s license. But for most undocumented immigrants, this basic form of identification has historically been out of reach.
Soon, however, undocumented immigrants in three states could join those in Washington State and New Mexico in being able to get a drivers license. Illinois, Colorado, and Nevada will introduce bills allowing all state residents to apply for a license in the 2013 legislative session.
Nevada Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis argued in favor of the legislation, saying that while immigration policy is a national issue, states can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to roadway safety. Denis hopes that the bill would reduce the number of traffic accidents that affect unlicensed and uninsured drivers.
“The safety issue is a problem that we have each and every day, and we need to address that as a state,” Denis said.
But not all politicians believe that “safety first” is the motive behind allowing undocumented immigrants to hold driver’s licenses. New Mexican Governor Susana Martinez recently introduced a new push to repeal her state’s law, stating that it gave undocumented immigrants unfair freedoms.
“I oppose that any undocumented immigrant have a driver’s license. We have 45,000 in our state, at this time, that have a driver’s license that should not have [one],” Martinez said in February 2012. “Many are coming here, and it takes very little identification for you to be able to get a driver’s license, and therefore they can move around the country, freely, with that kind of an ID. And I do not support that, at all.”
Maria Hinojosa, of NPR’s Latino USA, thinks that Governor Martinez’s proposed repeal won’t come easily. Though there are many conservative New Mexicans who oppose the driver’s license law, there are equally as many grassroots Latino activists who fought to get the law passed.
“Yes, Governor Martinez is having to nod to the more conservative side of the state’s GOP, but on the other side of the GOP coin is the Latino electorate side of the coin — and she needs that vote as well,” Hinojosa explains.