SANTA FE, N.M. – Dozens of the same business and residential addresses were used repeatedly by people to obtain driver’s licenses in New Mexico in a pattern that suggests fraud by immigrants trying to game the system, an Associated Press investigation has found.
In one instance, 48 foreign nationals claimed to live at a smoke shop in Albuquerque to get a license. In another case, more than a dozen claimed to live at an automotive repair shop over a one-year period. The scenario has been repeated at other addresses since New Mexico changed its law in 2003 to allow illegal immigrants to get the same driver’s license as a U.S. citizen — one of just two states allowing that
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is pressing the Legislature to scrap the law because of public safety concerns about widespread fraud. She contends New Mexico has become a magnet for out-of-state immigrants seeking a license, which can be used to board airplanes, conduct financial transactions or get another license in some other state. The governor’s proposal will be considered by a legislative committee on Thursday.
Having an address in New Mexico is a critical part of getting a license. Applicants without a Social Security number must prove their identity with multiple documents such as a passport or notarized English translation of a foreign birth certificate. They also must show New Mexico residency with other documents, including property lease agreements, utility bills and bank statements. Of the more than 90,000 licenses issued so far to foreign nationals, it’s impossible to know how many are illegal immigrants because the state doesn’t ask a person’s immigration status.
The AP analyzed license data since 2003 and found a striking pattern at addresses across the state that suggests the license system is being abused.
Seventeen people with different last names used a car repair shop’s address in Albuquerque for licenses during nine months in 2007; only four additional licenses were issued to people using that same address in 2008 and 2009.