New Mexico judge blocks immigrant residency verification program

[JURIST] A New Mexico judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked [opinion, PDF] the "Residency Verification Program" [press release], announced last month by Governor Susana Martinez [official website]. Judge Sarah Singleton stated that "irreparable injury will occur in the form of constitutional deprivations" if the "Residency Verification Program" is not halted. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) [advocacy website] filed the restraining order [text, PDF] and an accompanying writ of mandamus [text, PDF], arguing that the program is unconstitutional [press release] "because it unfairly targets certain Latinos in New Mexico and places a higher burden on them beyond what the law requires of other residents" and it "constitutes a gross usurpation of power from the Legislature." The governor argues that the program is necessary because New Mexico is one of the few states that does not require proof of residency for a driver's license and therefore it has become a haven for "license rings" which obtain driver's licenses for individuals who have no intention of staying within the state. The program, if allowed to continue, would require a random sample of 10,000 immigrants who have obtained New Mexico driver's licenses to verify their residency via an in-person appointment.

Driver's licenses and immigration reform have been a contentious issue throughout the country. In August, the state of Arizona appealed the ruling [JURIST report] upholding the injunction against a controversial immigration law to the US Supreme Court. The act would require, in part, any individual with a license from a state which does not require proof of citizenship to obtain a license, such as New Mexico, to carry additional documentation [JURIST report] to prove their citizenship. In June, a group including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center [advocacy websites] succeeded in blocking [JURIST report] a controversial Georgia immigration law which would allow law enforcement officers to not accept driver licenses [JURIST report] from states that do not require a proof of citizenship to obtain a driver's license and detain individuals with these licenses for failure to prove citizenship. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens [official website] announced in August that he would appeal the ruling [JURIST report].

 

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