ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The state doesn’t allow obscene or offensive personalized license plates. But one plate in New Mexico is turning heads and some people are calling it offensive.
“I’ve never seen one like that before, that’s pretty offensive,” said one person.
“That’s not cool at all,” said another person.
That’s the reaction from people on the streets when KRQE News 13 showed them a picture of a New Mexico license plate.
The plate says, “WETBACK.”
KRQE News 13 tracked down the man who owns the plate, 67-year-old Vicente Mendiola from Las Cruces. He said he’s had the same word on his personalized plates for decades.
“So it’s been 35 years,” said Mendiola.
Mendiola said he moved from Mexico to the Land of Enchantment at the age of 19.
“My in-laws started calling me wetback because I knew no English at all,” said Mendiola.
He liked the nickname so he applied for a custom plate back in the early 80’s.
On the MVD’s website, it specifically says they can reject a request for a vanity plate if it’s found to be derogatory or obscene.
The MVD told KRQE New 13 this was slipped by writing, “This plate is clearly derogatory. It should not have been approved for a custom license plate.”
As for how the plate kept getting by, the MVD said once it’s approved the first time, it doesn’t need to be re-approved each time he orders a new one.
“This is not a bad word,” said Mendiola.
Mendiola said in his 35 years with the plate, only one person has told him it’s disrespectful. He said everyone else likes it.
The MVD said Mendiola’s plate was approved before stricter standards were put in place for vanity plates. They’re now in the process of recalling his.