Immigrants Might Leave Arizona But Not The Country New Mexico has seen an increased demand for some services, including school and driver's license applications, since a controversial Arizona immigration law passed. Utah and Washington state have also seen a surge in applications for driver's licenses.
NPR logo

Immigrants Might Leave Arizona But Not The Country

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Immigrants Might Leave Arizona But Not The Country

Immigrants Might Leave Arizona But Not The Country

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Arizona's tough new immigration law may be tied up in court, but there are signs it's already having some effects. The law, SB 1070, requires police to check the immigration status of any suspect. For now, a federal judge has blocked implementation of that and some of the other toughest provisions.

But one key goal of the people who wrote the law was getting undocumented immigrants to self-deport. And evidently, some illegal immigrants have been leaving Arizona.

Sergio Quintana reports from Albuquerque.

SERGIO QUINTANA: At the Ranch Supermarket in Albuquerque's South Valley, a boisterous group surrounds a fast-talking Spanish language radio DJ during a remote broadcast.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

(Soundbite of applause)

QUINTANA: Watching the commotion is a woman sitting in her green SUV. She's 30 years old and originally from Guerrero, Mexico. Her two young children are asleep in the back seat. The SUV has Arizona plates.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

QUINTANA: She says they moved because she heard the economy was better in New Mexico, and they don't chase immigrants here. Altogether, she says 12 family members came here from Mesa, Arizona, about three weeks ago to this primarily Latino neighborhood in Albuquerque.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

QUINTANA: In Arizona, she says, the local sheriff carried out regular immigration raids, so they could never leave the house, even to take the kids to eat. She's in this country illegally and didn't want to give her name. But she said her husband has already obtained a New Mexico driver's license and a job here. He's one of more than 11,000 immigrants who have come to New Mexico this year and legally received a driver's license.

State law allows applicants to use a Mexican matricula or ID card to get a license. Since Arizona passed SB 1070 last spring, New Mexico has seen a surge in new licenses issued to people using matricula cards.

Mr. MICHAEL SANDOVAL (Director, Motor Vehicle Division, New Mexico): So, basically, the applications that we've accepted have more than doubled in these last six months.

QUINTANA: That's Michael Sandoval, the director of the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division. According to his figures, the MVD usually issues between 8,000 and 10,000 of these licenses in an entire year. New Mexico is one of three states that does not require proof of legal residence to get a license.

According to an Associated Press analysis, similar surges in applications have also been seen in recent months in the two other states, Utah and Washington.

In New Mexico, there is other evidence of newcomers. Officials at school systems in Los Lunas, Santa Fe and Albuquerque say they've noted an unexpected influx of new students - many from Arizona.

Monica Armenta is the spokesperson for Albuquerque Public Schools, the largest system in the state.

Ms. MONICA ARMENTA (Executive Director of Communications, Albuquerque Public Schools): In previous years, we pretty much had been flat enrollment. But what we're seeing this school year for the first time is at least a one percent growth in enrollment.

QUINTANA: She says they have about 800 new students this year, but the school systems cannot say for sure where these folks have come from, or if they're here because of Arizona's crackdown. And in any case, it's not a massive migration moving east - it's more like a trickle.

Darren White is the director of Public Safety for the City of Albuquerque.

Mr. DARREN WHITE (Chief Public Safety Officer, City of Albuquerque): By fear of being arrested, folks did come to New Mexico. But I don't think it's the mass exodus that many people believed.

QUINTANA: He is concerned, though, that New Mexico's traditionally soft stance on immigration may make it too much of a magnet.

Mr. WHITE: What I think makes New Mexico attractive is the fact that we do, as a state, provide driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. And I have to tell you that I vehemently disagree with that policy.

QUINTANA: And he's not alone. The politics of immigration are changing the debate here, especially in the race to see who will replace current Governor Bill Richardson. In their first debate last week, Republican Susana Martinez went on the attack against Democratic Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish.

Ms. SUSANA MARTINEZ (Republican Gubernatorial Candidate, New Mexico): This administration and the policies of this administration are making New Mexico more and more attractive for illegal immigrants.

QUINTANA: Both candidates have vowed to roll back the law should they be elected governor.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

QUINTANA: Back in Albuquerque's South Valley, the woman in the green SUV says she likes it better here.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

QUINTANA: Because she says, in New Mexico, you don't always have to be looking in the mirror to see if the police are coming.

For NPR News, I'm Sergio Quintana.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.