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Immigrant Licenses: Reform, Not Repeal

The best response to drivers’ license fraud is reform, and not repeal.

New Mexico’s law granting drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants is controversial. Those seeking to repeal it rely on the argument that the current law attracts fraud to our state.

It is true arrests as recent as last month confirm that fraud happens. But should the entire policy be repealed based on those isolated incidents? A frank analysis of the pros and cons shows that the average New Mexican benefits enormously from the state’s current policy.


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First, allowing immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses improves public safety for all citizens. Approximately 80,000 immigrants have obtained drivers’ licenses, meaning they have gone through the process of being certified as a capable driver by the state.

That’s one out of every 20 cars on the road riding alongside of you and your children.

Do we really want to take that safeguard away?

Consider also that those 80,000 immigrants paid the $49 license and the DUI record-check fee, resulting in $3.9 million to our state. If the law is repealed, the state will not only lose that revenue but also have to come up with new funds to deal with those arrested for driving illegally.

The state will also have to provide for the children (often lawful U.S. citizens) of the undocumented driver no longer be able to support his/her family without lawful transportation to work.

It’s a drain on law enforcement and our tax dollars.

Repealing a law that will result in more unlicensed, uninsured drivers on the road is going to hit every New Mexican in the wallet.

A 2011 study by the Insurance Research Counsel reported that 26 percent of New Mexico drivers are uninsured. Unlicensed drivers cannot obtain auto insurance, so repealing the current policy will create more unlicensed and thus uninsured drivers on our roads. More uninsured drivers mean increased premiums for you and me because it decreases public safety.

Other states are following New Mexico’s lead.

Illinois recently passed a law to offer legal driving privileges to undocumented immigrants as a practical approach to improving its public safety. More states, such as Connecticut, California, Texas and Florida have indicated they will soon follow.

Regardless of personal feelings about immigration, New Mexico has to deal with the reality of the people currently living within its borders. Repealing the drivers’ license law will not result in undocumented immigrants leaving New Mexico.

Just take a look at the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in states without similar laws.

Instead, we should continue to work to improve an approach that deals with the situation in a realistic way that protects and even benefits lawful citizens of the state. That is why we believe that the best response to drivers’ license fraud is reform, and not repeal.