House approves bill rescinding driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, 42-28
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A bill carried by Rep. Andy Nuñez (I-Hatch) that would rescind the state’s policy allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses successfully bypassed the committee process — a rarely used parliamentary procedure called “blasting a bill” — Friday (March 4) when the House floor voted 42-28 to move the measure onto the Senate.
Eight Democrats defected to the side of the Republicans and Nuñez, completing two arduous days of deliberation that saw the 75-year-old Nuñez stay on his feet, verbally punching and counterpunching opponents, some of whom bitterly complained about the bill skipping committees and the passage of a measure they say singles out Mexican-Americans.
“Shame, shame on New Mexico,” Rep. Henry “Kiki” Saavedra (D-Albuquerque) said after the vote.
But Nuñez says the measure is necessary for public safety reasons and had the full support of Gov. Susana Martinez, who insists the bill — House Bill 78 — deserved an “up or down” vote.
I caught up with Nuñez about a half hour after the vote:
The bill survived a number of close calls on its way through the House and one of its most steadfast supporters came from a surprising source: Democrat Sandra Jeff of Crownpoint, whose vote was crucial, especially when the bill escaped tabling measures by 36-34 margins.
She explained her vote to me right moments after the bill passed:
Rep. Miguel Garcia (D-Albuquerque) gave an impassioned speech against the bill immediately before the final vote, arguing that the current policy keeps undocumented workers from hiding from public safety officials and going underground. Garcia began and ended his plea by quoting an e-mail he received in which Garcia said the writer expressed hope that “God strikes you dead.”
A few minutes later, Jeff told the floor she had received similar messages from the other side.
The eight Democrats who defected were:
Gov. Martinez’ office released this statement after the vote:
“Today, the will of the people of New Mexico was heard in the House of Representatives,” said Governor Martinez. “Despite numerous procedural schemes to defend the status quo, a broad coalition of Republicans, Democrats, and the House’s lone Independent came together to stand with an overwhelming majority of New Mexicans who want to see the dangerous practice of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants overturned. I hope the Senate will also listen to the people of New Mexico and give this bill an up-or-down vote.”
And an immigrants’ rights group, Somos Un Pueblo Unido, released a statement that said in part:
“It’s a dangerous precedent and inexcusable that House members would shut New Mexicans out from the legislative process by blasting Rep. Nuñez’ bill to the floor, and passing a substitute bill without any hearings or public input. Legislators’ refusal to even consider a ‘compromise’ bill that attempted to address specific concerns about fraud, shows that this debate isn’t about sound public policy, it’s about politics and re-election campaigns. We are hopeful that in the remaining weeks our elected officials will do their jobs, legislate responsibly based on facts and not hateful political rhetoric about hardworking immigrants in our state.”
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[...] (New Mexico) House approves bill rescinding driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, 42-28 Eight Democrats defected to the side of the Republicans and Nuñez, completing two arduous days of deliberation that saw the 75-year-old Nuñez stay on his feet, verbally punching and counterpunching opponents, some of whom bitterly complained about the bill skipping committees and the passage of a measure they say singles out Mexican-Americans. [...]