BNHR PRESS STATEMENT
Border Network Communities Statement on New Mexico Drivers Licenses for All
Real Solutions must be rooted on New Mexican Values and the Principles of Equality and Family Integration
El Paso TX. /Southern New Mexico. –With the New Mexico Legislature ramping up as it approaches its halfway point, Border Network for Human Rights staff and community members from Dona Ana County visited Santa Fe yesterday in an effort to make sure that our voices and values were being heard in the state’s Driver’s License debate.
We appreciate everyone who made time to meet with us and to hear from our community. This openness to hearing from community members is fundamental to good policymaking and to ensuring that governments serve everyone in their jurisdiction. We hope that those conversations can help guide policymakers to constructive approaches on this issue.
However, after meeting with a bipartisan mix of Senators and Representatives from Doña Ana County and other parts of New Mexico, BNHR is still concerned about the course policy discussions around Driver’s Licenses are taking. Both the leading House and Senate proposals would create two-tiered systems that stigmatize and discriminate against undocumented and mixed-status families. Meanwhile, better legislation, which would leave the existing Driver’s License program intact while creating a REAL-ID compliant card that New Mexicans can opt into, languishes without a hearing in the House.
Overall, our impression is of a legislature that is tense, and feels compelled toward some sort of action on Driver’s Licenses by a combination of federal pressure, political gamesmanship, and the brief window of the legislature’s current session. However, action for its own sake, or merely to relieve this tension, is not a sufficient reason to move legislation forward, and has the potential to advance policy that harms both our communities and New Mexico as a whole.
Instead, we remind legislators and the public, much as we did in our visits yesterday, that real solutions are rooted in communities, in values, and in moral principles. To this end, BNHR stresses the following five core principles in which any effort to shape New Mexico’s Driver’s License policy must be rooted:
· Ensure that all New Mexicans are legally able to drive and access automotive insurance.
· Maintain a prosperous, productive, and safe New Mexico for all.
· Ensure that all New Mexicans are afforded equal protection under the law.
o The 14th Amendment affords protection to all persons in the U.S. and specifically prohibits targeting of populations on the basis of characteristics like national origin.
· Ensure driving policy protects the dignity and rights of all New Mexicans from potentially abusive behaviors like racial profiling.
· Resist policies that criminalize immigrant families and needlessly divide our communities.
o Ensure that neither state agencies nor local law enforcement are turned into de facto immigration police because of driving policies.
BNHR is committed to fighting on behalf of these principles in this session, and into the future.
We believe that by foregrounding these principles in the debates around Driver’s Licenses, and by working to ensure that all policy keeps these principles as intact as possible, the New Mexican Legislature can craft solutions that are in the best interest of the state and all of its communities. We hope that the Legislature settles on approaches to Driver’s Licenses that serve the best interests of all New Mexicans, and BNHR will do what we can to educate and inform lawmakers toward those ends.
Finally, we urge both Congress and the Obama Administration to back off enforcement of the highly-flawed REAL-ID Act, and to craft federal legislation that better meets the needs of all communities across this country to be able to identify them without threatening the ability of those communities to meet basic needs like driving. In many ways the problems New Mexico faces are artificial ones of Federal making, and it is ultimately up to the Federal government to provide better policy solutions.
The Border Network for Human Rights, founded in 1998, is one of the leading human rights advocacy and immigration reform organizations located at the U.S./Mexico Border. BNHR has over 7,000 members in West Texas and Southern New Mexico.