By Matt Grubs, NMiF Producer
John Wertheim, one of the supporters of a New Mexico law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, said Thursday that the cascade of recent investigations suggesting widespread abuse of the law has caused him to shift his opinion.
“I think it’s a major problem for the proponents of this law,” Wertheim said on New Mexico in Focus, “and I include myself. I was a proponent.”
Wertheim, who served as chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico from 2004 to 2007, suggested a closer look at the policy response to uninsured motorists on New Mexico roads. When the law was created in 2003, many people supporting its passage cited concerns about drivers lacking proper insurance coverage and the resulting effect on both public safety and insurance rates for New Mexico drivers.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has made repeal of the law a touchstone issue for her administration, so far unsuccessfully.
Wertheim says he isn’t in lockstep with the governor, despite his change of pace. He noted in a follow up interview that repealing the law doesn’t seem to address the underlying issue.
“What I would hope to see is somebody from the repeal side saying “We see your concern with people driving around on the roads without a license and without liability insurance. That’s a real problem and let’s meet you halfway so we can address it.” Wertheim said, “But I haven’t heard that from anyone.”
To Wertheim, the issue runs too close to an ad hoc immigration policy. Keith Gardner, Martinez’s chief of staff, said earlier this year that immigration has never been a driving force behind the governor’s call for a repeal of the law.
A review of application records by the Associated Press earlier this year showed widespread use of identical addresses by applicants using the law to obtain a driver’s license. Two recent investigations have uncovered alleged rings of driver’s license fraud stretching into Georgia and South Carolina.