Lawmakers must address scam with licenses

On its editorial page this week, The Albuquerque Journal reminded taxpayers that their state lawmakers need to take action to end New Mexico’s driver’s license scams.

We certainly agree.

The issue was back in the news Monday when a former public notary from Portales reached a plea agreement after facing allegations she fraudulently obtain New Mexico driver’s licenses for hundreds of people living outside the U.S.

New Mexico does not consider immigration status when handing out driver’s licenses, which are often accepted as a legal form of identification across the nation.

The issue is complicated for border states, which are home to a large pool of legal and illegal workers from other countries, particularly Mexico. The complication is compounded when you consider the United States’ inability and unwillingness to deport millions of illegal residents. If the federal government doesn’t care enough to kick them out, some would argue, why prevent them from driving to work, church or school?

The undocumented can, and often do, contribute to the economy and pay more taxes than some “legals” on welfare around the state.

But of course New Mexico does not benefit from issuing a driver’s license to someone who uses it to live elsewhere.

Many laws are unnecessary. This one is worse. It invites shysters to take financial advantage of individuals from other countries who have potential to add to the quality of life for all of us.

There must be a better way.

The Journal’s editorial noted: “Last session lawmakers rejected a fair, bipartisan compromise that would have stopped offering government identification to illegal immigrants while extending the privilege of driving — and only driving — to immigrants with deferred immigration enforcement action status.”

“It would have shut down predatory enterprises like the one allegedly run by Luis Raul Collazo-Medrano and Olivia Campos.”

It’s an operation District Attorney Matt Chandler describes as a “$30,000-a-month ‘one-stop shop for foreign nationals wanting to obtain an identity.’”

Collazo-Medrano and Campos are accused of charging up to $4,000 for what amounts to an $18 license, the Journal reported.

“According to plea agreements, services included pickup at Amarillo’s airport, car service to Clovis or Portales, and fraudulent paperwork.”

Lawmakers around the nation created this problem by requiring drivers have a license, by allowing those licenses be used as “legal” identification, by creating immigration laws that cannot be enforced and would have prevented most of today’s citizens from living here “legally.”

When they get together again in January, New Mexico lawmakers and Gov. Susana Martinez’ office need to work across political party lines to correct the problems they’ve helped create.

— Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis Media Inc. editorial board, which includes Publisher Ray Sullivan and Editor David Stevens.

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