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Licenses for all: sensible, sane, ethical

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On Tuesday, Jan. 15, in her State of the State address, Gov. Martinez announced that repealing drivers’ licenses for the undocumented will again be a legislative priority for her.

The defeat in the Legislature of previous  attempts to deny drivers’ licenses to the undocumented makes one wonder if the resurrection of this issue is nothing more than political grandstanding.

The legislative calendar is full of other matters to consider which are truly pressing. Why continue to revisit what the people’s representatives have rejected more than once?

There are three reasons why the state of New Mexico should continue to permit undocumented residents to obtain a driver’s license. One reason grows out of plain common sense. A second reason is rooted in economics. The third reason, though seemingly idealistic, is based in the ethical traditions of the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each of these reasons to permit drivers’ licenses requires a close look.

When the state of New Mexico issues a driver’s license, proof of personal identity and residency are required. It is only common sense that knowing who and where New Mexico drivers are provides the state with greater control over matters of safety, use of roads and pursuit of possible criminals.

A four-year driver’s license costs $18, with a required DWI record check of an additional $15 fee. It is only commonsense that our state can well use the revenue generated by all who wish to obtain a driver’s license.

Residents of New Mexico who wish to be issued a license (for a car) are required to purchase a minimum amount of liability insurance. When one buys such insurance, that information goes into a New Mexico Insurance identification database. If a driver fails to purchase insurance, his vehicle registration can be suspended until such insurance is bought. Is it not common sense to make sure that all drivers in our state carry insurance?

Denying drivers’ licenses to the undocumented is neither rational nor helpful to the safety and well-being of all New Mexicans.

Providing drivers’ licenses to undocumented workers in New Mexico makes economic sense.

So many industries in our state depend upon undocumented workers. Those industries include oil and gas, agriculture and dairy farming. Candidly, all of us depend on the labor of undocumented workers, which is remunerated at barely adequate wages. Without their labor, many of our basic consumer costs would rise significantly.

States which deny drivers’ licenses to the undocumented, in addition to creating other forms of harassment, soon lose this key workforce. Let us be honest with ourselves: We need to ease the path for those on whom we depend so extensively.

There has been some discussion about various compromises that would allow the undocumented to obtain driving privileges short of an actual license.  While compromise is important to political process, we must never resort to a compromise which labels our most vulnerable people and makes them targets. The effect of carrying out such a proposal would be to create an official state designation of a segregated class of residents. This does not reflect the spirit of New Mexicans.

The values of many citizens of New Mexico are rooted in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

These traditions bid adherents to “love the stranger and not to oppress him.” Sikhs and Native Americans also teach the imperative of recognizing our common humanity by extending hospitality to others. The path of personal integrity calls upon us to conduct our lives, and even to make political decisions, based on the sacred values we espouse.

This is the moment to contact our legislators. ...

Rabbi Paul J. Citrin
Las Cruces