GOP lawmakers want to undo some immigration laws

By Deborah Baker: The Associated Press

SANTA FE — Republican lawmakers in both houses want to undo state laws allowing some undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses and to qualify for in-state tuition and lottery scholarships.

The bills, introduced Wednesday, are part of an immigration package that also includes non-binding memorials asking Gov. Bill Richardson to deploy National Guard troops to the border immediately and requesting Mexican President Vicente Fox to take action to stop illegal immigration.

“The number of persons who enter the United States illegally has risen dramatically in recent years and poses a serious security threat to the United States and to New Mexico,” said Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell.

Rep. Terry Marquardt, R-Alamogordo, called the package “positive and forward-moving.” An immigrants rights group called it “draconian.”

Marcela Diaz of Somos Un Pueblo Unido said the legislation was unnecessary and anti-immigrant and would reverse years of work by church, labor and other groups to integrate newcomers into New Mexico communities regardless of their immigration status.

The package includes a bill requiring state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws.

Last year, the Legislature sent Richardson a bill that would have prohibited state and local police from enforcing federal immigration laws. Supporters said it was aimed at making undocumented immigrants — crime victims or witnesses, for example — more willing to turn to police.

The governor vetoed it, but immediately issued an executive order directing state law enforcement not to ask about a person’s immigration status under certain circumstances.

Republicans also criticized a measure Richardson signed into law last year allowing some undocumented immigrants to be eligible for in-state tuition rates and the lottery scholarship program. They must have attended a New Mexico high school for at least a year and gotten a high school diploma or equivalency degree in the state.

“How do you tell an American citizen from New York he has to pay out-of-state tuition to go to UNM, but if you’re here illegally from another country, you do not,” said Rep. Dan Foley, R-Roswell.

Another measure in the package would require a social security number and evidence of citizenship or lawful status before an applicant could be issued a driver’s license.

Under current law, applicants don’t have to prove they’re legal residents. Foreign nationals can present a passport, a federal tax identification number or a consular identification card. State officials say the policy has lowered the rate of uninsured drivers and increased safety on roads.