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New Mexico may limit driver's licenses for illegal immigrants

January 27, 2012 |  6:00 am

New mexico driver's licenses
New Mexico has been torn for some time as to whether undocumented immigrants should continue to be eligible for driver’s licenses. The state is one of two that allow it; Washington is the other.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who was not in office when the legislation passed, says it encourages fraud. Her argument got some fuel this week from an Associated Press investigation showing that state driver’s license data pointed to possible abuse.

People without Social Security numbers who apply for New Mexico licenses must show multiple identifying documents and prove they live in the state. When the AP analyzed years of license data, the news service found dozens of addresses where fraud may have occurred.

For example, over a five-year period, 48 foreign nationals applying for licenses said they lived at an Albuquerque smoke shop. Seventeen people during a nine-month period said they lived at a car repair business. (It’s unclear whether the applicants were in the country illegally; the state does not ask about immigration status.)

The law’s supporters told the AP that the state could prevent abuse without stripping people of licenses they need to register their cars and get insurance.

A spokesman for Martinez, a former prosecutor, countered that the investigation was “yet another sign of how New Mexico's driver's license has been compromised.”

When state lawmakers took up the issue Thursday, Martinez’s proposal to repeal the license law got a rocky reception, the AP said. A legislative committee instead approved a Democratic plan to keep the licenses while imposing new restrictions.

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--Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
Twitter.com/ashleypowers

Photo: The group Somos Un Pueblo Unido, or "We Are a United People," protests Thursday in Santa Fe, N.M., against a proposed repeal of a law that allows illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses. Credit: J.R.Oppenheim/Associated Press

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