Judge blocks New Mexico governor on immigrant driver licenses

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 31, 2011 9:28 PM
Judge blocks New Mexico governor on immigrant driver licenses

SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) - A New Mexico judge on Wednesday blocked a drive by the state's Republican governor to make it harder for illegal immigrants to keep driver's licenses in the state.

Governor Susana Martinez's administration in July ordered the state to re-verify the physical residency of foreign nationals who hold New Mexico driver's licenses in order to get or keep their licenses.

District Court Sarah Singleton in Santa Fe on Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order blocking the license residency verification program, arguing that "irreparable injury" would occur from "constitutional deprivations to the applicants."

Martinez, a former prosecutor who made a crackdown on illegal immigration the centerpiece of her election campaign, issued the requirement after the state legislature failed to ban licenses for illegal immigrants earlier this year.

A lawsuit was filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund last week had sought to block Martinez's order. It described the governor's move, designed to cut down on fraud, as unconstitutional and a waste of state money.

New Mexico is one of three states, including Utah and Washington, that allow illegal immigrants to lawfully obtain driver's licenses provided they show proof of residency.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Peter Bohan)