SANTA FE (KRQE) - New Mexico may join the ranks of states trying to tackle immigration reform. One state lawmaker wants to give illegal immigrants permission to work legally in the country if they don't have a criminal background.
Sen. Steve Fischmann, D-Las Cruces, is proposing to allow illegal immigrants to keep their jobs and licenses through a "guest worker program." Under the measure, foreign nationals, who can prove they've been living in New Mexico since last year and who pay for a criminal background check and pass it, would sign up through the state's Workforce Solutions Department to get a worker's permit and become legal immigrants.
Fischmann said the current policy isn't working.
"The feds are failing us," said Fischmann. "We make lawbreakers out of everybody with our current immigration policy whether you're an employer or someone trying to get a job."
Fischmann said about six percent of New Mexico's workforce is undocumented, working mainly agricultural jobs.
"It really strives to keep immigrant families together," said Fischmann.
If passed, the bill would need federal approval. Fischmann is hoping the federal government would grant waivers to New Mexico. He said the bill would mean a lot of workers would start paying taxes that haven't been.
But the idea seems to be going nowhere fast.
"To try to set up a state guest worker program is doomed to failure," said Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell.
Kintigh said a guest worker program would be giving amnesty to thousands of immigrants who have broken federal laws.
"They have broken the law," said Kintigh. "That's the only way you can get a job if you're a foreign national, is by making a false statement on the job application."
Kintigh also said states have no authority to grant legal status to anyone.
"It's a catch-22, and it's really unfair to the foreign nationals who hold out to think that this can be done when in fact, it can't."
Fischmann is hoping the bill will get some consideration during the 30-day session that begins Tuesday. The governor will decide what goes on the agenda. Gov. Susana Martinez declined to comment on the proposal because she hasn't had a chance to review it, but she has said she believes immigration reform is a federal issue.
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