“Licenses help violence victims in several ways” – Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, Enlace Comunitario

Posted on 12. Jan, 2015 by in Legislative Updates, News, Policy Events

Member program Enlace Comunitario Executive Director Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez urges NM Governor Martinez and other state legislators to carefully consider repealing the law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain state driver’s licenses because of how it impacts domestic violence victims. 
From the Albuquerque Journal:

“Gov. Susana Martinez is well known for her commitment to work against domestic violence.

Domestic violence statistics against women continue to be alarming. Battery, sexual assaults, rape and murder (four women die each day in this country from domestic violence) are among the horrific experiences often endured. Recent New Mexico tragedies illustrate the problem graphically.

An immigrant who is in an abusive relationship lives in society’s shadows with the daily stress and fear of deportation. There is the added weight of lack of language access, lack of transportation and of course an even greater lack of resources to protect themselves and their children.

That is why having the ability to have a driver’s license offers critical safety options to survivors. This social safety issue affects all New Mexicans.

And this is why we urge the governor to reconsider the impact that her attempt to repeal driver’s licenses for undocumented New Mexicans in this upcoming legislative session would have.

For many years New Mexico has been a leader that has offered immigrants in a domestic violence situation a way to address barriers that keep them in an abusive relationship. Having a driver’s license has saved peoples lives. The license has done this in a number of ways, because an individual can use it:

  • to get a court order of protection against an abuser;
  • to cash a check;
  • to open a bank account;
  • to use a credit card;
  • to check into a hotel;
  • to drive away from a violent partner;
  • or, to board an airplane to flee.

A driver’s license is an important tool available to the abused individual to overcome the barriers to freedom. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence support driver’s licenses for immigrants because of the importance of having a government identification card for survivors. Even the federal REAL ID Act recognizes the importance of a government identification card for many groups of immigrants.

Ten states have recently extended drivers’ licenses to immigrants. And more are about to follow. We should be proud that New Mexico is ahead of the curve.

The bill offered by Rep. Paul Pacheco to repeal the law regarding driver’s licenses for immigrants will cause much suffering among Enlace Comunitario clients and other domestic violence survivors. As we work to eliminate violence in the home, we should not go back to policies that limit possibilities of relief for domestic violence survivors.

Being in an abusive relationship is like being in a cage with invisible bars. The bars, some of which have been noted above are the barriers to a woman’s ability to make choices for herself, her future and the future of her children.

At Enlace Comunitario we seek to help remove the barriers domestic violence survivors face. Our advocates, case managers, counselors and lawyers address the barriers by providing connections to support, advocacy and resources. Having the ability to access these resources and opportunities is paramount for immigrant survivors and their children in our state, in our communities and in our neighborhoods.

Having a driver’s license is an important tool for removing those barriers. I have seen the relief on our client’s faces when they walk out of our offices after meeting with a staff member. You can see that relief as they begin to see the barriers disappear.

A repeal of the current law would put more bars up for an extremely vulnerable segment of New Mexico residents.

We respectfully invite the governor and Pacheco to see the real life examples of the countless people who are impacted each day by having the ability to drive with a New Mexico license – or not.”

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