--2 Martinez' driver's license order unconstitutional, lawsuit says
         
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Gov. Susana Martinez has repeatedly refused to respond to SFR’s inquiries.

Martinez' driver's license order unconstitutional, lawsuit says

The governor overstepped the legislature, the plaintiffs argue.

August 24, 2011, 5:00 pm
By Joey Peters

 Last month's order from Governor Susana Martinez forcing 10,000 foreign nationals with driver's licenses to prove their state residency oversteps her authority, according to a lawsuit filed today by immigrant rights group MALDEF.


"The executive branch cannot run around the legislature and against discriminate people based on where they were born," David Urias, an attorney participating in the case, told a press conference gathered in front of the Roundhouse today. 

Urias contends that because it's the executive branch's role to enforce laws made by the state legislature, Martinez' order is unconstitutional. Martinez ordered the Motor Vehicle Department to send letters to a randomly-sampled group of the 85,000 foreign nationals who have state driver's licenses. It's unknown how many of them are undocumented immigrants.

"Our state has become a destination spot for people from other states and around the world who wish to receive an official government-issued ID card," Martinez said in a press release at the time.

The letters give them 30 days to schedule a time top prove their state residency with the MVD in either Albuquerque or Las Cruces. Many have had trouble scheduling appointments since.

The order came just months after a failed attempt to repeal the driver's license law during the last legislative session.

"We spent three whole days on legislation on immigrant driver's licenses," state Rep. Eliseo Alcon (D-Cibola) told the press conference. "We got nowhere because there was no compromise."

Martinez, who campaigned as tough on immigration, has vowed to bring the issue back up in next month's special session. Republican lawmakers are making efforts to build momentum for the repeal.

Alcon is no-holds-barred in his criticism of Martinez. "If she were to see you laying on the floor right there because you were hurt, she'd probably kick you in the kidney," he says. "She feels that just because she is governor, she can hurt whoever she can."

The legislature passed the driver's license law in 2003, which allows foreign nationals to register for them. Martinez' order, which hasn't been mandated or debated in the state house or senate, unconstitutionally violates the 2003 law, the case argues. It also violates the state constitution's equal protection clause, which protects people born outside of the United States, Urias says. 

"There's no individualized suspicion that any of these people have done anything wrong," he says.

The lawsuit names state Alcon, Rep. Miguel García (D-Bernalillo), resident Marisela Morales,  state Sens. Howie Morales (D-Catron) and Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Bernalillo) as plaintiffs. It calls for New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla to dump Martinez's order. 

Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, who spoke at the press conference, says he asked City Attorney Geno Zamora to look into the merits of joining the lawsuit.

"What the city needs to do is stand up to these divisive issues," Coss tells SFR. "They threaten the constitutional basis of how we govern ourselves."


 

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