A controversial bill allowing undocumented immigrants to receive Colorado driver's licenses is going into effect Friday.
Undocumented immigrants have been signing up for appointments since July 3, but will be able to receive the licenses starting Friday. Colorado joins a handful of other states, including neighboring New Mexico, that issue these licenses. The licenses will look similar to regular Colorado licenses, but there will be one significant difference: a black banner that says it is not valid for federal identification, voting or public benefit purposes.
Supporters of the bill say its common sense: undocumented immigrants are already on the road anyway, so it's better for everyone that they be licensed and insured. Eligible immigrants would have to prove they're paying state and federal taxes, and have an ID card from their country of origin. Applicants will also have to pass a driver's test; have proof of their name, birthday and current address; and an individual taxpayer identification number.
Applicants must be able to provide a signed affidavit stating that they have or will be applying for a visa or full citizenship.
Opponents argue that this will make Colorado a more attractive destination for people who want to move into the U.S. illegally.
An attorney who specializes in immigration law says he has concerns about the licenses too; primarily that the information applicants provide to get the licenses could actually wind up being used by immigration enforcement officers to track illegals down. Eric Pavri told 11 News that he's advising his clients to wait a few months to see what happens before applying. He's also reminding them that the licenses do not equate with amnesty. "I am telling people, hold off and maybe it's not a good idea to apply for this yet, until it shakes out," said Pavri.
There's only five locations where you can get a driver's license if you are undocumented. Colorado Springs is home to one of them. At 1:30p.m., the DVM had issued 9 drivers licenses.
Yesenia Beascochea is with the South Region Organizer Colorado Immigration Rights Coalition. On Friday, she said some people were turned away because they didn't have the right documents. She wants to remind others to double check their income tax forms before they show up for their appoint. Those forms need to be certified. Outside of some of the confusion, she said the people that did leave with licenses had a lot of feelings attached with them. "Joy, relief, excitement. Now they can be driving in the road and it's safe," said Beascochea.
11 News Spoke with Edith Contreras who received her license, Friday. She said, "More secure for me and my family."
The DMV has yet to release how many licenses were issued in total Friday. In total, 35 people made appointments. The office is closed over the weekend, but will reopen on Monday.