A federal judge weighed in from the bench Thursday on whether illegal immigrants should be allowed to get New Mexico driver’s licenses. His opinion: Bad idea.
“I’ll just comment that this case to my mind demonstrates why it is unreasonable for the state of New Mexico to authorize the issuance of driver’s licenses to people who are unlawfully in the United States,” said Senior U.S. District Judge James A. Parker.
Parker made his remarks during a sentencing hearing for a New Mexico man who has admitted his involvement in helping Polish citizens who flew in from the East Coast to get driver’s licenses here.
“It leads us to cases like this,” the judge said, as well as cases like those of the co-conspirators scheduled for trial in the spring.
Joshua Silva was sentenced to six months of home detention with an electronic ankle bracelet. He had pleaded guilty in October to a single count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens.
At the time of his arrest, Silva was driving to Las Cruces with Wojectech Tyminski, a Polish national, to obtain a driver’s license. Tyminski had already made arrangements with two alleged conspirators for documents to obtain his New Mexico driver’s license.
Parker said that having a stream of people coming in from Poland, and having Silva ferry them to the Las Cruces Motor Vehicle Department to obtain licenses with faulty documents, “simply makes no sense to me.”
Even Silva’s attorney, Alonzo Padilla, said he agreed the law is “stupid.”
Federal prosecutor Norm Cairns said the government took no position.
Gov. Susana Martinez has waged a high-profile effort since taking office last year to get the state Legislature to repeal the 2003 law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. She has said she will make that a priority again in this year’s legislative session, which began this week.
Lukas Kozlik and Pawel Skladnik, both Polish nationals, were indicted separately in the case involving Tyminski and are scheduled for trial in April, although Kozlik is still a fugitive. Skladnik was arrested in August in Ridgewood, N.Y.
Court pleadings say a search of his apartment revealed documents suggesting he had a role in a major conspiracy to provide help to Polish nationals seeking fraudulent licenses.
The two, alleged to be the major organizers, published ads in magazines, newspapers and on the Internet targeting fellow Polish nationals. The ads said individuals who did not have Social Security numbers could obtain driver’s licenses in New Mexico and elsewhere. They charged $2,000 and $3,000 for their assistance in getting the licenses, according to federal law enforcement.
New Mexico is only one of two states — Washington is the other — that allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses. Utah allows foreign nationals to get a more restrictive permit that can be used for driving but not for general identification purposes.
Journal staff writer Jeff Proctor contributed to this report.