Governor talks driver’s license law, school grading system

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez came by the Clovis News Journal office Wednesday for an interview with staff after visiting Cannon Air Force Base.

Liliana Castillo

Gov. Susana Martinez said Wednesday that New Mexico is a magnet for people all over the world looking for a valid U.S. ID. And that’s one of the reasons behind her push to repeal a law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in New Mexico.

Martinez spent Wednesday in Clovis, meeting with leaders at Cannon Air Force Base and area communities and to address her push to change the state’s driver’s license law.

The governor spoke to about 70 people in a press conference at the Clovis Civic Center about the issue.

“New Mexico has become a magnet for people seeking valid U.S. IDs and for people who traffic humans,” she said during the press conference.

In an interview with the CNJ on Wednesday, Martinez said an Albuquerque Journal poll reported that 72 percent of New Mexicans want the law repealed.

“I have been elected to do the people’s business,” she said. “So it’s important to me to have the Legislature understand that New Mexicans want this law repealed because it is a public safety issue.”

Martinez said people come from all over the world to New Mexico for the sole purpose of getting a license — a valid U.S. ID — then proceed to leave the state.

“So there are people here who live here and are getting their license with valid documentation,” Martinez said. “And then we have a large group of people who are being trafficked here by individuals who are charging illegal immigrants anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 to then provide them with fraudulent documents.”

Martinez said the problem doesn’t stay in the state.

“That driver’s license can then be exchanged in a different state for their driver’s license. Then that person, whether they’re here to work and do good things or if they’re here to cause harm, we don’t know the difference,” she said.

Martinez said state legislators need to do what their constituents want them to do.

Other issues Martinez addressed in Wednesday’s interview with the CNJ:

Q. How is the state’s new A through F grading system for schools better than the national AYP system for New Mexico students now and in the future?

A. Instead of terms that are used now, Martinez hopes the A through F grading system will be understandable by everyone.

“What that’s going to let us do is measure progress not just where you are today,” she said.

Each school will be given a grade and then the state will focus on the lower 25 percent performing students.

“We’ll see what resources are we going to give; one, to those students and, two, to that school to move it from their grade to a higher one,” she said.

To do that Martinez said short cycle assessments will be used.

“We should never find out in July that 83 percent of our students in the previous year did not master the basic skills of that year and are on to the next,” she said.

Martinez also plans to include social promotion prevention in future education reform bills.

Q. What will you and the Legislature be looking at in the upcoming year as far as budget is concerned?

A. “The budget will always be an issue because when revenues are generated, the tendency is to spend it,” Martinez said.

Martinez said her administration will make sure the size of government is at a level that the population and inflation require. Requirements in Martinez’s eyes: A good education system and the ability to provide for it, a good Medicaid system for those who are most in need and one that is long lasting, and good public safety.

Q. As governor, you will select the next district judge to replace Judge Robert Orlik, who recently died at age 64. Explain the process.

A. Martinez said she personally interviews every judicial candidate.

“I come from the legal field and so I have appeared in front of many, many judges,” she said. “I have an idea of the type of judge I would like to see on any bench in New Mexico.”

Her list of requirements (along with requirements for the position): Knowledgeable in their area, or someone who is bright and smart who can learn quickly; a person of honor; a person with patience; hardworking; and of good character.

Martinez will be interviewing the four candidates this week and could have a decision made as early as next week.