New Mexico: A Different Debate Over Immigration

While reporting on immigration in New Mexico, I often hear people say “New Mexico is not Arizona.” This comes from all political perspectives, including elected officials and everyday New Mexicans. I checked in with some Native American leaders in New Mexico about immigration and the 2012 elections.

Laurie Weahkee, director of the Albuquerque-based Native American Voters Alliance, says “a lot of Native American folks have mixed feelings about the driver’s license issue,” but her organization supports keeping it. “We feel that all drivers need to be licensed,” says Weakhee, because “it promotes safety for everyone.” Weahkee, who is Dineh, Cochiti, and Zuni Pueblo Indian, says undocumented immigrants who have a driver’s license can purchase car insurance and are more likely to stick around after an accident to file a police report because they don’t have to be afraid of interacting with the police.

New Mexico’s 19 pueblos have deep roots to the land that their ancestors called home and have dealt with newcomers for centuries. San Ildefonso Pueblo Governor Terry Aguilar says his tribe cooperates with local and state officials on immigration issues, but they have not taken a stance on the New Mexico driver’s license policy. Governor Aguilar says as long as tribes are able to maintain sovereignty in their own laws, federal immigration laws should continue to be enforced and “everybody should be accountable for their actions.”

Full story at Indian Country Today

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