Published January 24, 2013
Gov. Susana Martinez said Wednesday that she remained committed to "full repeal" of a New Mexico law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses despite signaling a willingness to compromise with state Democrats a day earlier.
Speaking at a press conference about a new state driver's license system, Martinez told reporters that she will continue to push for a repeal of the law even though Senate Democrats have blocked the Republican governor's previous attempts and have warned that another repeal attempt had no chance of passing.
"This is what I hear from people across the state," Martinez said. "They support a repeal of this law."
Martinez told the Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday that she would consider legislation that creates a driver's permit for illegal immigrants that couldn't be used as identification. Her comments to the newspaper signaled for the first time since taking office that she would consider a compromise bill that would allow illegal immigrants to somehow legally drive in the state. In the past, Martinez said she would not support anything besides repeal.
But on Wednesday, Martinez said she remained committed repeal first and would only consider "anything that comes across my desk" after repeal failed.
Asked if she supported a similar law like in Utah -- a state where people who can't prove U.S. residency can get a permit that allows them to drive, but that document is not a valid identification -- Martinez said no. The Utah law, Martinez said, didn't meet federal security guidelines in her opinion.
Still, some immigrant advocacy groups welcomed the remarks by Martinez. Marcela Diaz of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a Santa Fe-based immigrant advocacy organization, called the governor's comments "encouraging" and said immigrant groups were ready to work with the governor and lawmakers on amending the law to fight fraud.
"This is an opening," said Diaz, who has opposed the governor's repeal effort and has organized protests against it. "Even talk of a compromise from the governor's office is encouraging."
Martinez made her latest comments at an Albuquerque press conference as she unveiled a new system that will allow New Mexico residents to renew driver's licenses online rather than forcing them to renew at crowded Motor Vehicle Division offices. She said the new system came after state workers developed it at her request and should help end long lines at DMV offices.
Drivers will be able to renew licenses online as long they met certain requirements and aren't holders of commercial driver's licenses or have certain medical conditions, state officials said.