- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2015

DENVER — Lawmakers in Colorado and New Mexico are attempting to execute a U-turn on allowing driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants with bills to defund or revoke the programs.

The Colorado state Senate voted Friday to approve an appropriations bill without an additional $166,000 to fund four of the five Department of Motor Vehicles‘ offices that issue driver’s licenses to those in the country illegally.

The vote was 19-16, with all Senate Republicans and one Senate Democrat voting in favor of the appropriations bill. The bill now goes the Democrat-controlled House, which is expected to reinsert the funding and set up a stalemate in conference committee.

In New Mexico, the state House voted Thursday to repeal the 2003 law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. The bill passed 39-29, with two Democrats joining the Republican majority, but could stall in the Democrat-controlled state Senate.

The Republican-driven legislation comes as a reversal of the recent trend by state legislatures to approve such driver’s licenses. Ten states and the District of Columbia now allow illegal immigrants to obtain some kind of driver’s license or authorization cards, with seven of those laws passing in 2013.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has been fighting for years to repeal the driver’s license law, one of the first in the nation to permit those without legal status to obtain licenses. Polls conducted for the Albuquerque Journal show have more than 70 percent of voters oppose the law.

Critics argue that the measure has not reduced the number of drivers without insurance, but has instead created a black market for illegal immigrants to obtain licenses fraudulently and then use them as identification to gain licenses in other states, as if they were Americans just moving between states.

State officials report that about a third of those who obtain the licenses do not actually live in New Mexico, according the Albuquerque Journal, which has endorsed replacing the licenses with driver’s permits that would not be considered legal identification for receiving government benefits or boarding airplanes.

“It’s past time for New Mexico’s lawmakers to move forward on this needed reform — particularly in the state Senate, which has never allowed the issue out of committees for a floor vote on stopping the practice,” said the Sept. 28 editorial.

In Colorado, applicants flooded the five DMV offices designated to issue the cards, which include a line saying that they are “not valid for federal identification, voting or public benefit purposes.”

“The bill that was passed in 2013 estimated lower demand. There’s higher demand because there are so many people stuck in a broken federal immigration system,” said Democratic state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, whose amendment to restore the funding failed Thursday.

Republicans, who were in the minority in 2013 and unable to stop the bill, argued that issuing the licenses the only encourages more illegal immigration. Without the additional funding, the DMV estimates that the wait time for appointments to obtain those licenses will be over a year.

“It’s programs like this that unfortunately encourage more” illegal immigration, said Republican state Sen. Kevin Lundberg. “This program is a way to increase the broken federal system. That is not appropriate. We should not be fully funding a program for which the policy has a deleterious effect on the overall policies of our nation.”

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