DENVER – Immigrant-rights groups have launched a campaign to rescue a law that gives immigrants living in Colorado illegally the opportunity to get a driver’s license or state ID.
Jennifer Piper, organizer with the American Friends Service Committee, says Senate Bill 251 passed the Legislature in 2013, but the state’s Joint Budget Committee defunded the program in the last session.
She says making this law work is important to Coloradans who want all drivers on the road to be there legally.
“This is one way to make sure that everyone who’s on the road has the opportunity to be in compliance with the law,” she says.
“To make sure that they are able to access insurance and understand the rules of the road.”
Piper notes the revenue generated by higher rates immigrants in the country illegally pay for licenses, roughly triple what documented residents pay, made the program self-funding.
But the Joint Budget Committee refused to release $166,000 collected in fees to expand services to more Division of Motor Vehicles locations. Piper says only three DMVs in the state now offer the service, making licenses essentially inaccessible.
Some legislators originally opposed the measure, claiming state-issued identification could be seen as a form of amnesty for immigrants who have come to the state without legal authorization.
Piper says while the program’s licenses and IDs clearly indicate they are not valid proof of citizenship, they are critical for taking driver’s safety tests, buying car insurance, registering vehicles and providing proper identity to police officers.
“It puts us, at the local level, on an equal footing until the federal government figures out what they need to do to enact just and humane immigration reform,” she says.
Piper says that to qualify for the program, residents must present a valid internationally accepted form of ID, and prove they’ve either lived in the state for at least two years or filed taxes in the previous year.
She says most Coloradans realize it’s a matter of public safety and financial responsibility to try to license and insure as many drivers as possible.