New Mexico's Driver's License Law: Lawsuit Filed

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on August 25, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A New Mexico driver's license verification program implemented by Governor Susana Martinez has come under fire in a lawsuit filed by four Democratic legislators and a resident with legal status.

Believing that New Mexico's licensing program, which allows illegal immigrants who live in-state to obtain a driver's license, is ridden with fraud, the Governor's office sent 10,000 letters to registered foreign citizens to determine whether or not they live within the state.

The plaintiffs want the program to stop, alleging that it is discriminatory.

Governor Martinez campaigned on the issue of immigration, with a particular focus on New Mexico's driver's license law, reports the New York Times.

She believes that it jeopardizes public safety and encourages immigrants to engage in fraud.

To prove her point, she had the Taxation and Revenue Department send thousands of letters to foreign citizens with registered licenses, ordering them to appear at the DMV within 30 days to prove that they are residents of New Mexico.

While some were returned, the Times reports that many failed to appear in fear of deportation.

In addition to arguing that the Governor overstepped her authority, the suit alleges that the verification program discriminates on the basis of legal status, or alienage.

While the Supreme Court has previously held that the Equal Protection Clause prohibits states from discriminating against legal aliens on the basis of their immigration status, its protection of illegal aliens has only been applied to children seeking an education.

However, the Constitution may still provide protection to all immigrants holding a New Mexico driver's license because it targeted both legal and illegal aliens on their citizenship alone.

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