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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Primary Season

Albuquerque voters will be able to choose two new members of Congress in 2012.

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D) retired after five terms in office. Representative Martin Heinrich (D) left his seat in the 1st Congressional District to run for the open senate seat. That means his U.S House seat will be a race to watch.

Three Democrats are vying for the party’s nomination on the ballot in November – former Albuquerque mayor Marty Chavez, State Senator Eric Griego and Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham. I covered the Democratic 1st Congressional District primary for NMPolitics.net:

Chávez’s past may be a ‘double-edged sword’

Griego: ‘People want you to stand for something’

Grisham has already defied expectations