“I’m disappointed,” Nunez said as a feet away Marcela Diaz and Elsa Lopez of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, an immigrants rights group, hugged each other.
“It’ll come back because the governor wants it,” Nunez told TV reporters. “It’s important. Everybody keeps trying to make this a Mexican thing. It’s not. We’ve got people coming from Poland, Russia.”
In contrast, Diaz is close to euphoric as she tears up.
“It’s been a long 60 days,” Diaz said. “We know that it is not over. We have a lot of work to do to educate our lawmakers, our officials, our voters” and how important it is for public safety that New Mexico issue drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants.
Advocates say issuing drivers’ licenses creates a database by which that authorities can keep track of people.
“Our community is being attacked from many different angles,” Diaz said, referring to inflammatory rhetoric. “We have to be vigilant. We have to do a lot of work.”
The six lawmakers on the HB78 conference committee have just broken up without an agreement, which means New Mexico will continue to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
“What the Senate came up with is going back to the status quo,” said Rep. Andy Nunez, I-Hatch.
“We have not agreed,” Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said. “This has been an extremely challenging issue for all of us.”
Federal officials have not resolved issues that they have authority over, Wirth said, adding that he agreed with Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, on that score.
House and Senate representatives can’t reach agreement on motion by Rep. Andy Nunez, I-Hatch, to return to his bill, which would prohibit drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.
Now conferees are discussing a motion by Rep. Ray Begaye, D-Shiprock, to have voters decide the issue with a referendum.
“We should let New Mexicans decide for themselves what they think,” Begaye told his fellow lawmakers.
“We cannot amend a joint resolution into this bill,” Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, asked the Legislative Council Service drafter.
A joint resolution is how the Legislature sends a question to the voters.
“No,” the drafter said.
Begaye’s motion just failed.
“I wish we were discussing this in 1492,” Rep. Ray Begaye, D-Shiprock, just told the group. Begaye is a Navajo lawmaker.
“Is that a bill number,” Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, cracked. Laughter.
“Can I make that a friendly amendment,” Begaye responded. More laughter.
That exchange is about it for levity in the discussion over whether New Mexico should stop issuing drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants.
Martinez asked if visas legal immigrants have to renew visas, then they also would have to renew their drivers’ licenses.
“They would be required to come back in and renew the driver’s license,” the legislative council service drafter is saying.
Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, jumped into the exchange.
“We are looking at the various inconveniences” that might occur but we should go to the central issue: should New Mexico continue to grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
“There will be some inconveniences,” Ryan said. “We first got to start with the premise that we are going to stop issuing drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants. There are other options for people to come to this country legally.”
House Majority Leader Ken Martinez said requiring social security numbers would create some pretty big issues at Los Alamos.
“Two of the groups we were concerned with, scientists at our national labs and the German training folks at Alamogordo,” Martinez said.
“They are here legally,” Nunez responded. People here legally can get driver’s licenses, such as students on visas, Nunez said of the bill he supports.
“If we take out the Senate amendments would these folks be prohibited from getting licenses,” Martinez asked.
“No,” Nunez said.
Legislative council service drafter is speaking now.
Relatives of legal immigrants might not have defined immigrations statuses. “In those limited circumstances, those individuals would not be able to get drivers’ licenses temporarily,” the drafter is saying. “There is some period when their status would be in question.”
Rep. Andy Nunez, I-Hatch, has just asked the Senate members to retreat from the amendments added onto the bill by that chamber.
Sen. John Ryan agreed with Nunez.
Ryan said the Senate amendments deviate from requiring a social security number. Without that, we don’t get to an agreement, at least one that I can support, he said.
Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, said concerns about national security were raised by critics of the state’s current policy of giving licenses to illegal immigrants.
“I believe the amendments put in the Senate put to rest some of the concerns about national security,” Morales said.
Those amendments strengthened requirements for a proof of residency, stricter penalties for those who get licenses fraudulently or help individuals get them fraudulently and added fingerprinting.
“The amendments place in the Senate chambers do meet the requirements of national security,” Morales said.