Phoenix – The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a lawsuit Wednesday to halt a program to verify the residency of 10,000 allegedly undocumented immigrants who obtained driver's licenses in New Mexico.
The suit filed with the U.S. District Court in Santa Fe argues that it is illegal to try to force foreigners with driver's licenses to prove that they actually reside in the state.
New Mexico's Republican governor, Susana Martinez, announced last month that a letter was being sent to presumed undocumented immigrants selected at random asking them to report to offices in Albuquerque or Las Cruces with documentation that will prove their current residence location.
Martinez is a fierce opponent of the state law allowing undocumented migrants to obtain driver's licenses.
MALDEF named the state Taxation and Revenue Department as the defendant in a suit on behalf of a group of state legislators and residents.
The legal complaint asks the court to halt the implementation of the residency verification program.
Martha Gomez, a lawyer for the MALDEF, said Wednesday at a press conference in New Mexico that this program is aimed at a specific group of people and represents an excessive expenditure of state resources that was never authorized, ratified or even considered by the state legislature.
"This program violates the rights of New Mexico residents and bypasses the wishes of the state legislature," the attorney emphasized.
Since being elected, Martinez has tried to overturn a 2003 state law authorizing driver's licenses for people who do not have a Social Security Number.
Currently, New Mexico is one of just two U.S. states that continue to give driver's licenses to people "without papers." The other is Oregon.
The GOP governor has said on several occasions that this practice has made New Mexico into a magnet for undocumented immigrants who come from other states with the sole intention of obtaining a driver's license.
So far, all Martinez's attempts to overturn the law have failed due to a lack of support from legislators.
Nevertheless, the governor said that she will push this proposal again during a special legislative session next month.
During the announcement of the residency verification program, Martinez said that authorities had detected several cases of fraud in which people in New Mexico have provided documentation to undocumented immigrants so that they can obtain driver's licenses and then return to other states.
One of the state legislators supporting the lawsuit is Democrat Miguel Garcia, sponsor of the 2003 state law, who says Martinez is playing politics with the issue.