Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Curry, is attempting to get cities and counties to support a measure banning undocumented immigrants' driver's licenses.


He's been presenting the issue in various city council and commission meetings since May.

"This is a story that communities need to hear about," Roch tells SFR. "Some of the folks getting drivers licenses don't ever live here."

Gov. Susana Martinez has vowed to bring the issue back up in a special session proposed to begin this September. It failed earlier this year when the Senate and House, both controlled by Democrats, couldn't compromise after passing two different bills addressing the issue. She's since asked the state Motor Vehicles Division and the Taxation and Revenue Department to tighten regulations requiring foreigners to verify their residence in the state.

In the meantime, Roch says he's encouraging local officials to "take a stand" and support changing the law. So far he's gotten support from commissions in Quay and Roosevelt counties and city councils in Logan, Melrose, Grady and Causey. He plans to use it as weight while making his case during the special session.

While Martinez has made toughness on immigration a central theme of her campaign and governorship, Roch doesn't view changing the driver's license law as an immigration issue.

"[It's] a little unfortunate that folks have made it out to be an issue of immigration," he says. "Immigration is a federal issue. New Mexico's responsibility is to make a license that is secure."

New Mexico and Washington State are the only states not in line to have IDs meeting the standards set under the  federal REAL ID Act, Roch says. He maintains that current New Mexico licenses won't be recognized by the act, which goes into effect Jan. 15, 2013.

Roch also says that license fraud in New Mexico has been made by all kinds of ethnic immigrants.

"If you look at fraud, there have been Polish nationals, Asians, Chinese and Africans that have participated in it," he says. "To say this is limited to Hispanics is unfair and unfortunate."

According to KASA-TV news, 37 percent of 16,000 requests received for licenses between August 2010 and April 2011 came from out of state.

But Elsa López, a community organizer with immigrant advocacy group Somos un Pueblo Unido, says that the driver's license law passed in 2003 was the result of five-year effort from the state's immigrant community.

She argues that the current system offers a way for agencies to track undocumented immigrants, about 85,000 of which have New Mexico driver's licenses. All of them are reported into the state's Motor Vehicle Division database, which law enforcement agencies have access to.

"If we are really concerned about public safety, the best way to prevent harm is a way to identify them," López tells SFR.

The MVD would lose it's ability to track the immigrants if the law is changed, López says.

She also points to the rocky path of the REAL ID Act, which has been delayed three times since being passed in 2005. Since then, 23 states have passed non-compliance resolutions opposing the law. Similar resolutions are pending in 17 states and the District of Columbia.