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Renewed effort on driver’s licenses tabled in House committee

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SANTA FE — A new effort to change the state’s practice of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants was tabled in committee late Tuesday after Democratic members charged the measure did not do enough to help  some immigrants.

House Bill 606, sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, would allow citizens and legal immigrants to get a newly designed driver’s license that complies with the federal REAL ID Act when their current license expires.

The bill would also create a second, unique driver’s license for illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and have been granted deferred immigration action status by the federal government, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status President Barack Obama granted in 2012 for children of illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by parents. That license would not be good for identification purposes outside of New Mexico, according to the bill.

Gov. Susana Martinez and legislative Republicans have endorsed the bill as a compromise, shifting away from past positions that opposed any driving privileges for illegal immigrants. The bill is co-sponsored by 37 members of the House.

But Democrats in the House Labor and Human Resources Committee said the bill doesn’t do enough to address a need for immigrants without the deferred action status to drive legally in New Mexico. The bill was tabled on a 5-4 vote along party lines.

Under the proposal, illegal immigrants who have not been granted the deferred action status would lose all driving privileges in New Mexico.

Committee Republicans, however, argued the bill should be moved out of committee to give the proposal a chance at passing both chambers before the session ends March 16.

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