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Politics

Lawsuit Challenges New Mexico Driver's License Policy

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez.
Photo courtesy State of New Mexico.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez.
New Mexico Driver's Licenses Lawsuit
New Mexico Driver's Licenses Lawsuit

A national civil rights organization claims the governor of New Mexico violated the state's constitution by requiring foreign nationals to participate in a residence certification program.

Governor Susana Martinez's office sent 10,000 letters to foreign nationals with driver's licenses in July in which they asked them to prove they are current residents of the state. Those who do not comply may have their license revoked. Martinez said the program is meant to weed out fraud in a system that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) filed a lawsuit in state court Wednesday against New Mexico's Department of Taxation and Revenue, the office in charge of the program. Attorneys for MALDEF said the program unlawfully singles out a particular group of people without the authorization of the state legislation.

“Only foreign nationals received the letters," said Martha Gomez, a staff attorney for MALDEF. "So it's a violation of the equal protection clause of the New Mexico constitution.”

MALDEF also requested a temporary restraining order against the program which allows those who received a letter 30 days to respond.

About 87,000 foreign nationals have a New Mexico driver's license out of a total of 1.4 million license holders. The deadlines to submit proof of residency begin September 2nd.

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