ALBUQUERQUE – A newly formed sheriffs’ group said Friday it may lobby for the repeal of a New Mexico law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
A number of sheriffs oppose the law, saying it could lead to illegal immigrants using fake addresses, and criminal syndicates getting licenses for those living illegally in the country, said Jack LeVick, executive director of the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association.
“We just have a whole lot of concerns,” LeVick said. “Different problems keep surfacing for law enforcement here in New Mexico.”
LeVick said members will vote in 10 days on whether the group will launch lobbying efforts to repeal the law during the next legislative session.
The announcement came after Gov. Susana Martinez said the law has kept New Mexico from complying with a nationwide law imposing security standards for driver’s licenses.
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Martinez asked for clarification of what will happen to New Mexico and other states if they fail by 2013 to meet the requirements of the Real ID Act, enacted in 2005.
The National Conference of State Legislatures said 17 states have passed laws that prohibit compliance with the Real ID program.
Martinez, who supports a repeal of the New Mexico law, said she intends to press lawmakers again on the move during the next legislative session.
In April, sheriffs from New Mexico’s 33 counties organized under the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association to offer deputies advanced training and to build a lobbying force to help change state laws and beef up sheriff’s departments.
The group promises to educate sheriffs on budget matters, create a pipeline for developing future law enforcement leaders and lobby state lawmakers on issues.
Marcela Diaz of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a Santa Fe-based immigrant advocacy organization, said she’s not surprised that the new group would lobby to repeal the driver’s license law because some sheriffs did the same during the last legislative session.
She said immigrant advocates don’t see how repealing the law would make the state safer since it would mean law enforcement wouldn’t be able to keep track of immigrants at all.
“This is being framed as a political issue not a policy issue,” Diaz said. “We would be happy to work with law enforcement on fraud issues.”
Diaz said a coalition of immigration advocates, religious leaders and students also plans to lobby to keep the law.