Sen. Smith sees appeal for both sides in two-tier license compromise

Sen. Smith sees appeal for both sides in two-tier license compromise

By Milan Simonich
The New Mexican
SantaFeNewMexican.com

State Sen. John Arthur Smith says he’s still hopeful of a compromise on driver’s licenses for immigrants. But, he says, the House Republican bill for driving privilege cards would be unacceptable to most in the Senate because it contains what he calls “the Scarlet Letter” — everyone with the card would be identifiable to police as an undocumented immigrant.

“That’s the component where you have concerns about racial profiling,” Smith, D-Deming, said Friday. “The proof in the pudding of a true compromise is that you have to get it out of the Legislature. With the Scarlet Letter, you have opposition to the House bill.”

The two-tier bill would allow U.S. citizens who don’t want a Real ID-compliant driver’s license to receive the same, secondary license as someone without proof of immigration status. This license would be good for driving but not for federal purposes, such as boarding an aircraft.

Smith said the two-tier bill appeals to conservatives and liberals.

“I know I’ve got some conservative farmers and ranchers in my coffee club down south that aren’t interested in having their information turned over to the federal government” by getting a Real ID-compliant license, he said.

Giving citizens a choice of what type of driver’s license they want would make sense for another reason, Smith said. Someone who drives but doesn’t fly could avoid the time and possible expense of having to present his or her birth certificate and Social Security card at a Motor Vehicle Division field office to obtain a Real ID-compliant license.