Media Contact

Emmanuelle "Neza" Leal-Sanchez, Somos, (505) 307-5034, neza@somosunpueblounido.org

Micah McCoy, ACLU, (505) 266-5915 x1003, mmccoy@aclu-nm.org

Maria Archuleta, NMCLP, (505) 255-2840, maria.a@nmpovertylaw.org

May 3, 2018

SANTA FE, NM – Today, civil rights groups and advocates for people experiencing homelessness requested a temporary restraining order (TRO) in state district court against the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department (TRD) and the Motor Vehicles Division (MVD) to stop them from unlawfully denying Driver’s Authorization Cards (DAC’s) and non-REAL ID identification cards to eligible New Mexicans until a lawsuit filed earlier this year is resolved.

 

The lawsuit, Coss v. Monforte, filed in January of 2018, challenges MVD’s onerous and illegal regulations governing the issuance of non-REAL ID driver’s licenses and identification cards, including the illegal practices of requiring proof of identification number and not providing adequate due process to applicants who are denied.

 

“Every day New Mexicans go without a license or ID is another day where they are unable to cash their paycheck, pick up their prescriptions or lose a job opportunity,” said David Urias, lead attorney on the case. “While the court decides this important case, MVD should not be allowed to further endanger the livelihoods of countless working families by ignoring the law and overstepping their authority.”

 

The plaintiffs include senior citizens, immigrants, and homeless individuals who need a license or ID to go to work or school, obtain housing, medical care or other necessities, but were illegally denied an MVD credential without written notice detailing the reasons for the denial or information about how to appeal it.

 

Plaintiffs such as Charlie Maldonado Jr. lost a job offer because he could not present a valid ID that left him without a much-needed source of income that would have helped him exit homelessness. Similarly, Eulalia Robles lost two caregiving jobs because she could not present a valid driver’s license and was forced to forfeit her car. While other plaintiffs like former Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, Raúl Aaron Lara Martínez, Reyna Carmona and Elizabeth Lara find it much more difficult to take care of their families because they cannot legally drive.

 

“We continue to hear from people throughout New Mexico who are eligible under state law, but

are still denied licenses or ID cards by MVD,” said Marcela Díaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido(Somos), an organizational plaintiff in the case. “We also continue to receive reports from agencies that provide services to vulnerable New Mexicans like domestic violence survivors and people who are experiencing homelessness. These agencies are struggling to help their clients meet MVD’s illegal regulations. MVD’s regulations and practices are setting low-income New Mexicans back, and they must stop while our families get their day in court.”

 

 

“Time is of the essence for people who have been illegally denied a license or ID in New Mexico,” said Peter Simonson, Executive Director at the ACLU of New Mexico. "People are already losing work and falling behind on their bills. We cannot allow MVD to continue hurting hardworking New Mexicans while this case works its way through the courts.”

 

If granted, the injunction would require TRD, MVD, their employees, and their contractors, such as MVD Express, do the following:

 

  1. Halt implementing and enforcing illegal regulations that do not exist in the governing statutes for the DAC or the non-federally compliant ID card. 
  2. Notify all New Mexicans previously denied a DAC or non-federally compliant ID card in writing to provide the reason for their denial and how to resolve their ineligibility, including those who underwent a background check.
  3. Record and preserve the name and mailing address of every New Mexican who applies for, but does not receive, a DAC or a non-federally compliant ID card moving forward.

 

“When a person who is working hard to exit homelessness is denied an identification card, they are almost guaranteed to stay homeless since they will not be able to get a job or rent an apartment without ID,” said Hank Hughes, executive director of New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. “We cannot wait, we need MVD to follow the law and give people a fair shot at getting an ID now.”

 

In 2016, Republican and Democratic legislators came together and created a two-tiered driver's license system that gives New Mexicans the choice to opt in or out of the federal REAL ID Act. According to the law, the state must provide a REAL ID-compliant license or ID card to eligible residents who want it and can meet the federal government's onerous requirements. An alternative non-REAL ID license or ID card for otherwise eligible applicants who do not meet the federal requirements or simply do not want a REAL ID, must also be made available.

 

The defendants in the lawsuit are the TRD, acting Cabinet Secretary John Monforte, the MVD and acting MVD Director Alicia Ortiz.

 

Individual plaintiffs who were denied licenses and ID cards are joined by organizational plaintiffs New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness and Somos Un Pueblo Unido in the lawsuit. David Urias of Freedman, Boyd, Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward, P.A. is the lead counsel on the legal team that includes attorneys from Somos, ACLU-NM, and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

 

To view the Plaintiffs’ motion for injunction, click here.

 

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Somos Un Pueblo Unido is a statewide immigrant-led civil and workers' rights organization with membership teams in ten counties and offices in Santa Fe and Roswell. Somos spearheaded a campaign in 2003 with law enforcement officials, victims rights agencies, and faith and civil rights groups to require qualified undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

 

The New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness was founded in 2000 to lead a comprehensive coordinated and strategic response to homelessness. It has 70 member organizations that providing housing and services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

 

ACLU-NM is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Its primary focus is on issues that affect residents of the state of New Mexico-LGBT equality, freedom of speech, reproductive freedom, immigrants' rights, privacy concerns, police abuses, fair treatment of prisoners,  and more. ACLU has helped lead the fight against the REAL ID Act since 2005.

 

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is dedicated to advancing economic and social justice through education, advocacy, and litigation. We work with low-income New Mexicans to improve living conditions, increase opportunities and protect the rights of people living in poverty.

 

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