Monday, January 24, 2011

Driver's license reform a priority in New Mexico

The men from Poland had settled near Chicago, but New Mexico offered what they coveted - driver's licenses without any proof of their immigration status.

Federal prosecutors in Albuquerque say the ringleader was a man named Jaroslaw Kowalczyk. They allege that, for $1,000 a person, he drove other Poles from Illinois to Albuquerque to exploit the New Mexico law that allows foreign nationals and even undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

New Mexico requires that applicants for driver's licenses live in the state and show a utility bill or lease as documentation. State police arrested Kowalczyk and two of his customers last summer after the address they listed turned out to be fake.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, a former state prosecutor, has made New Mexico's licensing system one of the early targets of her legislative agenda. She says people in America illegally obtain driver's licenses in New Mexico, then use them to move throughout the country. Martinez wants to repeal the 2003 law that made it possible for undocumented immigrants to receive licenses.

"This is a priority for the governor this session," said her spokesman, Scott Darnell. "There will be multiple bills that address this subject, and we will review them all. Ultimately, the governor will support the bill that best achieves her central goal of ensuring that driver's licenses are no longer issued to illegal immigrants."

Since the law went into effect, New Mexico has issued more than 82,000 licenses to foreign nationals. Because of the way the system is set up, the state has no breakdown of how many of them were in the United States illegally. In all, more than 1.6 million people have New Mexico driver's licenses.

Even with the small percentage of licenses going to people without proof of U.S. citizenship, Martinez sees dangers in an era of terrorism and drug cartel wars in Mexico. "If we're going to tell New Mexicans we're serious about securing the border, we must stop giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants," she said.

Legislators who voted to make it easier for undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses said the law would increase the number of drivers with auto insurance. They say it has succeeded because far more drivers carry coverage than before. A driver's license generally is necessary to buy insurance.

Richard Williams, police chief in Las Cruces, said the debate over licensing involves an important principle. "Our driver's licenses should be reserved for the people who live in New Mexico," Williams said in an interview. "If the state is a haven for people trying to get licenses illegally, it's easy to see the problems associated with that."

Under New Mexico's law, people without a Social Security number can apply for a driver's license. They must provide an alternative means of identification. These would include a personal taxpayer identification number, a valid passport from their country of citizenship, a Matricula Consular card from the Mexican Consulate or a foreign birth certificate with a notarized English translation.

In the case of the Poles from Chicago, federal prosecutors allege, they saw New Mexico as a place where they could circumvent immigration law. Illinois will not issue a driver's license without proof of immigration status. New Mexico does.


Tough border control in India

The idea that India is a land of opportunity compared to some of its neighbours is perhaps rather startling but that is the case.

The article below is from the Leftist "Guardian" so is rather preachy and probably exaggerated, but it covers some interesting ground nonetheless.

West Bengal and Bangladesh were once part of the same Indian State, yet the economic difference between them is now so great that Bangladeshis risk their lives to go to West Bengal. Bangladesh is Muslim. West Bengal is run by Hindus. Another example of what a disaster Islam is. Bangladeshis in Britain tend to be a problem population too

Do good fences make good neighbours? Not along the India-Bangladesh border. Here, India has almost finished building a 2,000km fence. Where once people on both sides were part of a greater Bengal, now India has put up a "keep out" sign to stop illegal immigration, smuggling and infiltration by anti-government militants.

This might seem unexceptional in a world increasingly hostile to migration. But to police the border, India's Border Security Force (BSF), has carried out a shoot-to-kill policy – even on unarmed local villagers. The toll has been huge. Over the past 10 years Indian security forces have killed almost 1,000 people, mostly Bangladeshis, turning the border area into a south Asian killing fields. No one has been prosecuted for any of these killings, in spite of evidence in many cases that makes it clear the killings were in cold blood against unarmed and defenceless local residents.

Shockingly, some Indian officials endorse shooting people who attempt to cross the border illegally, even if they are unarmed. Almost as shocking is the lack of interest in these killings by foreign governments who claim to be concerned with human rights. A single killing by US law enforcement along the Mexican border makes headlines. The killing of large numbers of villagers by Indian forces has been almost entirely ignored.

The violence is routine and arbitrary. Alauddin Biswas described to Human Rights Watch the killing of his 24-year-old nephew, who was suspected of cattle rustling, by Indian border guards in March 2010. "The BSF had shot him while he was lying on his back. They shot him in the forehead. If he was running away, he would have been shot in the back. They just killed him." The BSF claimed self-defence, but no weapons were recovered.

Nazrul Islam, a Bangladeshi, was luckier. "At around 3am we decided to cross the Indian border," he said. He was headed to India to smuggle cows back to Bangladesh. "As soon as the BSF saw us, they started firing without warning." Islam was shot in his arm, but survived.

The border has long been crossed routinely by local people for trade and commerce. It is also crossed by relatives and friends separated by a line arbitrarily drawn by the British during partition in 1947. As with the Mexican border in the United States, the border has become an emotive issue in Indian politics, as millions of Bangladeshis now live in India illegally. Many are exploited as cheap labour.

India has the right to impose border controls. But India does not have the right to use lethal force except where strictly necessary to protect life. Yet some Indian officials openly admit that unarmed civilians are being killed. The head of the BSF, Raman Srivastava, says that people should not feel sorry for the victims, claiming that since these individuals were illegally entering Indian territory, often at night, they were "not innocent" and therefore were a legitimate target.

Though India is a state with functional courts, he apparently believes the BSF can act as judge, jury and executioner. This approach also ignores the many victims, such as a 13-year-old named Abdur Rakib, who broke no law and was killed simply because he was near the fence. Sadly, Bangladeshi border officials have also suggested that such killings are acceptable if the victim was engaged in smuggling.

As the recent WikiLeaks report about endemic torture in Kashmir underscores, Indian soldiers and police routinely commit human rights violations without any consequences. Permission has to be granted by a senior Indian official for the police to even begin an investigation into a crime committed by a member of the security forces, such as the BSF. This rarely happens.


No comments:

Post a Comment