They say they do the hardest jobs, sweaty work in oilfields and dairies that Americans will not touch.

That is why Arturo Donlucas and Angel Escarcega want the state Legislature to continue granting New Mexico driver’s licenses to people who do not have proof of immigration status.

“They like the Mexican hand workers because they come in early and work late every day,” said Donlucas, 45, employed at a dairy in Lea County for 12 years.

American businesses rely on immigrant laborers, so legislators should let them keep their driver’s licenses, he said.

He and Escarcega, who makes his living as a laborer in oilfields near Lovington, were among more than 100 blue-collar workers from 11 counties who assembled Wednesday at the state Capitol. All of them defended the law.

Even immigrants in the country unlawfully can obtain a New Mexico driver’s license based on two factors: They must provide proof of their identity, and they must live in the state.

The law has been on the books since 2003, but it has been steeped in controversy for the last three years.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in 2010 campaigned on repealing it. Unsuccessful thus far, Martinez is making her fifth attempt to strike the law in the legislative session now underway.

“The Legislature should do what the overwhelming majority of New Mexicans are demanding — repeal this dangerous law,” Martinez said in her speech to open the session.

Majority Democrats in the Legislature say the law is humane and that the immigrants who receive driver’s licenses keep the economy humming.

State Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, is again sponsoring the governor’s bill to repeal the law. He said he was empathetic with hardworking immigrants but not persuaded that they should have driver’s licenses if they entered the country illegally.

“I understand how they feel. I’m not the bogeyman,” Pacheco said. “But we need to become compliant with the Real ID Act.”

Pacheco said the national identification system will be implemented someday, and that New Mexico must obey it to avoid financial penalties and chaos. Martinez for years has said that state driver’s licenses would not be acceptable identification to board airplanes under the federal Real ID Act.

Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a Santa Fe group that wants the licensing law to remain intact, said the governor and Pacheco were using scare tactics.

“Only 21 states are in full compliance with Real ID, and some of them give driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants,” Diaz said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security repeatedly has delayed enforcement of the Real ID Act. It recently issued a new schedule of deadlines, but enforcement at airports would not begin until at least 2016.

Diaz said a rebellion against the federal law by two dozen states means Real ID may never take effect.

State Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, said he sides with the governor because the New Mexico licensing law encourages fraud.

Illegal immigrants from Poland traveled from Chicago to New Mexico in hopes of obtaining driver’s licenses, Gallegos said. He cited the Poles’ attempt at fraud as just one example of problems caused by the law.

But Gallegos, who works as a superintendent of a road construction company, said he agreed that immigrants were critical to New Mexico’s labor force.

“Not many people want to do asphalt work at 340 degrees,” he said.

He said his company generally hired Mexican nationals with work visas, then tried to help them maintain a lawful presence in New Mexico so they could continue working.

At the rally, Leticia Mendoza, who owns an Italian restaurant in Hagerman, said she had a question for the governor.

“How does taking licenses away from immigrants help people like me start and grow small businesses? … We need a vision for New Mexico, not fear-mongering,” she said.

Mendoza, 44, said she became a U.S. citizen in 2005. She said she and her husband employ about 15 people at their restaurant.

Contact Milan Simonich at 986-3080 or msimonich@sfnewmexican.com. His Ringside Seat blog is at santafenewmexican.com.

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(6) comments

oscar michael

This is a security and sovereignty issue and should be addressed as such. There is no way to verify that illegals are who they say they are and that they reside in the state! If you enter the country illegally you are not entitled to anything as far as im concerned. I don't care how compassionate that sounds. If you break the law at the expense of others who take the time and spend the money to enter correctly, you should not have access to any services at all! Whats next? demands that we teach all the kids in spanish or demands for free health care, free food and demands to stay in the country??? oh wait.... that happens daily now too.

Peter Romero

I dont have a problem giving them some type of driving permit that needs to be renued every year to make sure they still live in N.M. have insurance and with some type of security check.
I dont like that as an american citizen I will have the same licenses that are issued to illegals. I thought I had more rights that that of someone illegal.
I don't get it.
Now I kinda understand wy we are last in everything good and first in everything bad.
The fact that democrats have run the house and senete at the round house since 1912 I can only point the finger one direction.


Jennifer Bizzarro

With or without a "green card," deport Justin Bieber. That is one example of a LEGAL immigrant that US citiizens could do without: two arrests in one week (drag racing in a Lamborgini and DUI), assault and battery on his chauffeur, disturbing the peace?

He does not live in New Mexico and he is in this country legally, but really, WHY? There has been a petition submitted (We The People) with more than 100,000 asking our federal government to send this teenager back to his native country, Canada.

We have enough trouble in our own backyards--Palm Beach or otherwise--without these legal aliens.

Steve Salazar

If illegal immigrants want a NM drivers license, they must comply with two things. First, they must show proof that they hold car insurance that they can't cancel after they receive a license. They must show proof of renewal of that type of vehicle insurance before they get the license renewed, every six months.

Second, they must be willing to receive a drivers license that is embossed witht he flag of their country of origin, so that there is no mistaking that they are not legal immigrants or citizens of this country.

Edward Brown

US Department of Homeland Security issue a notice on 13 December 2013 that states - effective 21 July 2014 New Mexican Drivers Licenses will no longer be valid for entry to any US Government facility. The Editor of the New Mexican has a copy of this as does Udall, Martin, Lujan, Wirth and Egolf. Yet they are doing nothing to fix the problem.

Francisco Carbajal

Interesting. Did you notice the one's that have been charged for fraud are not "Mexican Nationals?" Ooops, I am using the race card bait argument. BTW, I am wondering if State Rep. Paul Pacheco, (R) Albuquerque has read the entire "National Real ID Act and its language? Does he really understand this federal law and its implications and ramifications if it is enforced? I don't think so. I believe their is a hidden provision in the language which states that part of meeting this federal requirement, every person will need to be fingerprinted and the fingerprints data will also be part of the driver's license database. Sooner or later, they are going to need your DNA, your dental chart, your eyeball, including the component of the eye sockets and artery system. [wink]

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