New Mexico Illegal immigrants get to keep driver’s licenses
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez suffered a temporary political setback Thursday in a bid to stop New Mexico from granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.A legislative committee shelved her proposal and approved a Democrat-backed alternative that continues to allow licenses for illegal immigrants but with new restrictions.
Ken Martinez, the House Majority Leader, said the state's license policy allows illegal immigrants to "come up from the shadows" so they can drive to work and take their children to school and other places without fear of arrest for not having a license.
State law enforcement and Martinez administration officials told the committee that New Mexico's licensing law posed a security risk to the state and rest of the country."This has never been an immigration issue. It's not about immigration. It's simply about public safety and security," said Keith Gardner, the governor's chief of staff.
"I think it is about immigration ... it is about divisiveness," said Santa Fe Mayor David Coss. "We should stop calling people in our community illegal aliens."
New Mexico and Washington are the only states that allow illegal immigrants to obtain the same driver's license as a U.S. citizen. Utah grants immigrants a driving permit that can't be used for identification, unlike a driver's license that helps people open bank accounts and make financial transactions or board a commercial airliner.
Leading Senate Democrats Push Expansion of Amnesty Program
CQ Today, which tracks congressional activity, reported last week that longtime amnesty advocates Senate Majority Whip, Dick Durbin and Senate Immigration Subcommittee Chair, Charles Schumer hosted a private meeting last week with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton to discuss expanding the Administration’s amnesty program aimed at administratively closing removal cases of illegal aliens. The meeting took place in Sen. Durbin’s DC office, where Sens. Durbin and Schumer reportedly urged Morton to quickly implement the amnesty initiative nationwide and fix any problems encountered during the program’s pilot phase.
In addition to calling for the program’s nationwide expansion, the Senators argued the Administration is not going far enough in executing its amnesty initiative. At the meeting, Sen. Schumer presented Director Morton with a letter requesting that the Administration grant deferred action and work authorization to illegal aliens whose cases are closed. . “The inability to work and support oneself and one’s family would make a favorable exercise of discretion a potentially hollow victory to the vast majority of those who may otherwise benefit from this discretionary exercise of law enforcement priorities,” wrote Schumer. (Read the letter here) Sen. Durbin echoed Sen. Schumer’s sentiments in a statement following the meeting: “I commend the Department of Homeland Security for the steps it is taking to implement it, but more needs to be done and it needs to be done quickly.” (CQ Today, Jan. 24, 2012)
Deferred action status is what DHS grants when it decides, by its own discretion, not to remove an illegal alien. Those who receive deferred action usually also receive work authorization.
Congress Passes Bill to Combat Aviation Smuggling
Last week, both chambers of Congress unanimously passed a border security bill co-sponsored by Reps. Gabrielle Giffords and Jeff Flake both of Arizona. The bill aims to help secure the border by including “ultralight” aircrafts (small, one-manned, low-flying planes) in the definition of aviation smuggling, and increasing the maximum penalty for smugglers using this type of aircraft to 20 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. The legislation also allows the government to prosecute those attempting or conspiring to commit this crime, and provides that the Department of Homeland Security should collaborate with the Department of Defense in utilizing equipment and technology to help secure the border.
Ann Arbor City Council opposes increased federal enforcement
Ann Arbor, Michigan,weighed in on the national debate over immigration policy Monday night, passing a resolution opposing increased federal enforcement.Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, deported nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrants last year, the highest total on record.
"Regardless of the numbers, whether it's one family that's being targeted or hundreds or thousands of families, all these families equally matter," said Diana Sierra, one of eight immigration rights supporters who addressed the council Monday night.
About 60 percent of deportations between October 2008 and February 2011 affected individuals with no criminal background, according to statistics cited by city officials.
By a 9-2 vote, the City Council went on record saying it supports President Barack Obama's stated intention to focus deportations on serious criminals in order to preserve immigrant families.
But the city opposes policies that detain or deport immigrants who have not committed a serious criminal offense and who have long-standing ties to the community; It goes on to state the city supports timely legalization of those undocumented immigrants.