Members of Somos Un Pueblo Unidos hold signs along Main Street during a candlelight vigil Thursday night at Pioneer Plaza. The group met in support of a non-discriminatory state driver’s license policy (AJ Dickman Photo).
Members of the statewide, immigrant-led civil and worker’s rights organization, Somos Un Pueblo Unido, held a candlelight vigil at Pioneer Plaza Thursday night to voice their support for a non-discriminatory state driver’s license policy that complies with the federal REAL ID Act.
The REAL ID Act, enacted in 2005, was an Act of Congress that set forth requirements for state driver’s licenses and identification cards to be accepted by the federal government for the purposes of accessing federal facilities, boarding federally regulated aircraft, entering nuclear power plants or any other purpose determined by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Current New Mexico law [auth] allows the issuance of driver’s licenses to non-U.S. residents, which puts the state at odds with the REAL ID Act.
Marina Piña, community organizer of Somos Chaves County, said the group supports the two-tiered licensing plan sponsored by state Sens. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales and John Arthur Smith, D-Deming. The plan passed the Democrat-controlled state Senate by a 35-5 vote during the 60-day legislative session that ended in late March, but the Republican-controlled House never voted on it.
“It leaves the license as we have it for anybody who wants to keep it and doesn’t single out undocumented immigrants and those who decide to get the REAL ID-compliant license may do so if they wish,” Piña said.
Piña said any driving permit that identifies undocumented immigrants would lead to discrimination and would encourage unlicensed driving.
“A driving permit that singles out undocumented immigrants leads to more racial profiling,” she said. “Many people would not apply and would still be driving without any license. It doesn’t serve for identification for going to schools to pick up our kids, picking up prescriptions or even to cash our checks. We see it as discriminatory to our families, but there is a solution that can work for everybody in New Mexico.”
For nearly an hour, about two dozen members and supporters of Somos Chaves County held signs along downtown Main Street in Roswell with messages such as, “New Mexico is better than this,” “DHS stop picking on N.M.” and “Senate bipartisan compromise, the only true solution.”
Gilbert Valencia has been involved with Somos Chaves County for the past few years and brought his family to the event to support the American dream.
“Basically, what we’re saying is that every human being has the dignity to be treated no differently than anybody else,” he said. “We deserve the same opportunity as anybody. Here in New Mexico, the only identification you have is your driver’s license and they want to take that away from you. For all the people that came illegally to this country, they are looking for something special, that’s why they took the risk. That’s what we are fighting for.”
Somos Un Pueblo Unido was founded in 1995 and has an active membership of 2,500 people in 10 New Mexico counties. They provide community education about rights and remedies, legal services for victims of wage theft and engage Latinos in the political and electoral process.
Staff Writer AJ Dickman may be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.