News & Media

Colorado may issue more driver licenses to immigrants in 2018 - Westword

Human Dignity & Just Immigration Reform

January 17, 2018  |  Nora Olabi, Westword  |  Link to article

"A bipartisan group of legislators hopes to expand access to the driver's license program through a bill it will present early in the legislative session, championed by an unlikely pair: Representative Jonathan Singer, a Democrat from Longmont, and Senator Larry Crowder, a Republican from Alamosa...

'In Colorado, we can't solve federal immigration reform, but as a Colorado lawmaker, I can deal with some of the symptoms of the problem, Singer says. 'One of those is making sure everyone knows the rules of the road and everyone gets insured regardless of where you come from...'

The program is touted for its road-safety benefits, because all drivers are required to have car insurance.

'In order to get the license, you have to show proof of insurance, so to me, it’s a plus for anyone who's driving on the highways,' Crowder says...

Singer and Crowder are pushing for online or mail-in renewals for existing driver's license holders, an option available to every other Coloradan. This fix not only takes the pressure off first-time applicants by opening up more appointments, but it also eases the transportation concerns of undocumented immigrants who may be unable to trek across the state...

No taxpayer dollars are used to run the program. All expenses are covered by the undocumented immigrants themselves, who pay a higher premium for their driver's licenses. Most Coloradans pay a $27 fee for a driver's license, but undocumented immigrants pay $79.58 for the same privilege. And undocumented immigrants must renew every three years instead of the standard five years for all other Coloradans.

The DMV declined to provide its backlog of requests, but confirmed that all first-time appointments were completely booked ninety days out; some reports peg the backlog at more than three years...

'That's not upholding the intent of the law to provide access,' says Celesté Martinez, a bilingual organizer with Together Colorado, a nonprofit that is pushing for the bill. 'If you're trying to obtain an appointment and you live in Lamar, and you can only get an appointment in Grand Junction, that's almost seven hours of travel. … That has a big and significant impact.'"

This article originally published on January 16, 2018 from Westword. It has been formatted for publication on Together Colorado's latest news page. 

Read the full article here.