In the Roundhouse: "I Promise I Won't Let You Down..."

CAPITOL BUILDING, SANTA FE--Governor Martinez can’t get those driver’s licenses out of her mind.  Not only is it basically a political issue for her, it seems to be an issue aimed at an audience that resides mostly out of state...and votes in national tea party conferences.  Meanwhile, here in our Land of Enchantment, Representative Miguel P. Garcia rose to address the NM House Friday afternoon.

He talked a little about the Governor and the fear of thousands of “illegal terrorists” descending upon our beautiful state with the object of getting a New Mexico driver’s license.  He was holding a piece of paper.  This is what it said:

“Here is the testimony of one of South Valley Academy’s graduating seniors, who is undocumented (anonymous).

‘A person is a person no matter where they come from.  Coming from an undocumented family sometimes makes me think that I am somehow less human than others, even though I work hard in school, my parents make an honest living every day, and I plan to go to college.  I drive to school, I drive to church, and I drive to work.  I pay taxes.  I obey the laws.  I get good grades.  I have car insurance.  By having a license, I can still work and go to school in this state that has been my home since I was a baby.  All I ask is that you allow me to keep my license so that I can continue to be a positive contribution to my family and community.  I promise I won’t let you down--please don’t let me and thousands of other New Mexicans down the way the Governor would want you to.  Thank you.’

Suerte!”


Rep. Garcia serves the Atrisco area of Albuquerque’s south valley.  He is a former schoolteacher, having taught at Armijo, Longfellow, Los Padillas, and Carlos Rey elementary schools in APS.  I talked with him in the Roundhouse hallway.  “Former first and second graders now come up to me at the store and in church,” he said to me.  “For me to turn my back on those kids would be treacherous.  Many are pursuing college degrees or developing their skills in the trades.  They make big contributions to our society.”

Somehow the big contributions of people “without documents” and their offspring brings to mind the Governor’s recently highlighted revelation that her own grandfather was a person “without documents.”  The irony of her views on driver’s licenses and her own family history has already made the national press, including the Huffington Post.  And now even the Catholic Church has lined up against her on this issue.

Representative Miguel P. Garcia isn’t concerned about that.  He thinks about his former students.  “A driver’s license is key to them,”  he continued.  “And not just for getting around.  They need one for an ID...for a loan, for all kinds of applications, for a library card, all kinds of things.”

And somewhere, driving between her part-time job and school, is a bright young lady in Albuquerque’s south valley.  She has lived here since a baby.  Will she or her future child rise up to be Governor herself...like Susana Martinez?  Or are we so wrapped up in straight-jacket politics that this young life could never be as important as a distant but demanding ideology.

Views: 331

Comment by AM on September 10, 2011 at 6:17pm
I have very mixed feelings about this. On one level, it's basically enabling people to live here illegally, who at some point made a choice to come to this country outside of the law. On the other hand, perhaps it's harm reduction- since people drive anyway, why not regulate it?
Comment by Margaret Randall on September 11, 2011 at 8:35am
To see issuing drivers licenses to everyone who drives can't be reduced to "harm reduction" I don't think. This is about justice. Ours is a nation of immigrants. Some arrived to escape the Nazi holocaust in Europe. Some of those (more than 700 children) were rejected and sent back on the SS/St. Louis, to death and oblivion. Some came on other ships, teeming with Chinese escaping violence with another face. During the 1970s and '80s, many came across our southern border, fleeing the violence of dictatorships financed with U.S. dollars. The drug war in Mexico has its own victims and exiles. So long as we make excuses for our own grandparents but cannot see the overall picture of decent law-abiding human beings who contribute to society and only want to do so in peace, it is hard to see how we will be able to move forward as a species. Great article, Jon!
Comment by Shifty on September 12, 2011 at 1:18pm

The compromise bill offered by Democrats a few days ago seems like a nice, workable solution. Hopefully Gov. Martinez is learning that New Mexico is a state with a long history and culture of tolerance toward immigration--even the Catholic Church leadership is urging her to back away from her proposal.

Her situation reminds me of the character in John Sayles' movie Lone Star who is a respectable business woman who's always calling the cops on immigrants, and then at the end of the movie you learn that she herself crossed over illegally. It's not exactly the same, obviously, but illustrative of the fact that sometimes it's easy to forget your roots.

Comment by K on September 13, 2011 at 8:13am

As a former APS educator, I worked with many undocumented students who were continually confronted with this stigma of being "undocumented" yet were wonderful young people who wanted to particpate via education and hard work in the American Dream.

The repeal of the drivers license law in this state is an insult to our heritage and humanity.  Its is truly disgraceful to me as a New Mexican, that our Governor is pursuing this political course when she her self is a product of illegal immigration.  

The Dream Act would be another course of action to rectify this issue for the thousands os young people who came to this country with their parents when they were very young. Unfortunately, the momentum for this legislation seems to have dwindled at the national level.

As a New Mexican I will continue to support the ability of undocumented immigrants to receive drivers licenses in this state.  It shows how humane and descent we can be in a time of renewed jingoism.

Great spot Johnny.

Comment by AM on September 13, 2011 at 8:51pm

I've known many immigrants who jumped through all the hoops (waited years for a green card, for example). I'm just curious why those who came here outside the system should get all the same benefits as those who followed the rules.

 

Comment by Stuart Heady on September 13, 2011 at 9:20pm

I have lived in Texas, Arizona, California and now in New Mexico.  I have been looking at this issue for a long time.  What seems missing from the general discussion about this is the reason that there as many as half a million people a year risking everything to walk north.  That isn't just a few people who think working as migrant farm workers or landscapers is a big step up.  

 

The greatest motivating factor is the big multinational banks and agribusiness corporations who have been putting trillions of dollars in investments in place over the past decades.  For millenia indigenous peasants have pursued subsistence agriculture.  They grow enough for their families and the local community market.  To change this to an economy that instead benefits large scale landowners and agribusiness, these peasants have to be separated from the land.  There has been a lot of blood shed over this over the years.  To the very large scale interests, the peasants are just externalities.  When they come in to the US, if they actually are a factor in depressing wages, that is a Win/Win to Wall Street.  

 

The cure for this is to gain more awareness of how the US can renegotiate trade and labor agreements throughout the hemisphere that sets up a better balance between wages in one place and another and which creates incentives that help people benefit from an improving economy in their home communities, wherever they live.  This is very difficult when the interests involved are so powerful, but in the long run this will have to be addressed.  No border fence will every be anything but a political red herring.  Posturing over stuff like drivers' licenses is just plain beside the point.  

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