NM Plan to Verify Immigrant Driver's License Blocked by Judge

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on September 02, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Controversy surrounding New Mexico's driver's license verification program continues this week as state District Judge Sarah Singleton issued a temporary restraining order blocking the plan on Wednesday.

Finding that the state's attempt to re-verify the residency of over 10,000 foreign nationals could cause "irreparable injury...in the form of constitutional deprivations," she set a September 13 injunction hearing, at which time she will consider making the order more permanent.

Judge Singleton's decision to temporarily block the immigrant driver's license verification program is not particularly significant at this time.

By targeting foreign nationals, the state's plan raises serious constitutional questions. In such situations, courts generally issue the requested TRO, as they only last a matter of days and thus provide a little more time for judges to consider the issues.

The real test of New Mexico's driver's license program will thus come in two weeks, when the court will hear more in-depth arguments and make a decision as to whether issue a preliminary injunction, which will remain in place until litigation over the plan can be finalized.

At this point, the TRO order also doesn't necessarily indicate how Judge Singleton will rule on that date.

She acknowledged that the lawsuit raises important and intricate questions, and that the verification plan can cause significant injury to non-citizen immigrants, but it appears as though she did not hint at an ultimate decision.

And a difficult decision it will be. As discriminatory as it may appear, there is actually precedent that can be used to find both in favor of and against New Mexico's driver's license program.

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