Colorado Issues Driver's Licenses to Immigrants, Regardless of Status

Posted by Matthew Green | Sep 04, 2014 | 0 Comments

Lately, there has been so much reported on the crisis at the border, that some other important immigration issues have been receiving less attention. One positive piece of news that has recently come up is fact that Colorado has begun “issuing driver's licenses and identification cards to immigrants regardless of their legal status.” This is significant, not only because of the progress being made in the state, but also because less than ten years ago, Colorado had actually passed strict immigration enforcement legislation.

Immigrants obtaining their driver's licenses at a local Denver office were in good spirits while Department of Revenue Director Barbara Brohl congratulated the applicants. The story, written by the Associated Press, can be found here. One newly licensed driver interviewed for the story was Rosalva Mireles, 37. In Spanish, she said that she “never imagined that [she] would one day have a driver's license in [her] hands.”

After the news was released, and immigrants were informed that they could be eligible for a driver's license in the state, an estimated 9,500 appointments have been made for individuals to try for their licenses. The demand has been so great, that the state's website crashed because of high traffic. Currently, these appointments are being held at five locations throughout the state. While the locations may be limited, it has not put a damper on the process.

The article reminds readers that not very long ago, in 2006, a strict immigration enforcement bill was passed by Republicans and Democrats in the state. This new legislation required “law enforcement to notify federal authorities when they arrested someone suspected of living [without documentation] in the U.S.” Thankfully, this law has been repealed.

In addition to Colorado, seven other states recently passed legislation that would permit identification paperwork for immigrants who are living in the United States without documentation. Illinois and Nevada are among those states and have begun carrying out their new laws.

In December of 2013, undocumented immigrants in Illinois were allowed to take road tests to see if they could obtain their driver's licenses. At the time, Illinois was the largest state to implement this kind of legislation. Those who are happy with the law reminded others that there were already an estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrants driving on Illinois roadways. The new law enables these immigrants to legally obtain a license and get insurance.

According to the Illinois Highway Safety Coalition, “unlicensed uninsured drivers are involved in almost 80,000 accidents in the state each year.” This results in approximately $660 million in damages. In addition, “unlicensed immigrant drivers account for $64 million in damage claims.”

It seems reasonable to believe that once a state permits undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver's license, the roads will be less dangerous. After the law was passed in Colorado, state Senator Jessie Ulibarri, said that “[o]ur roads will be safer when we can properly identify everyone who drives on them. We estimate that thousands more Colorado drivers will get insured because of this law.”

About the Author

Matthew Green

Managing Attorney. The Law Offices of Matthew H. Green focuses on the aggressive defense of immigrants. A native of Arizona, Mr. Green understands the difficulties that immigrants and families of immigrants face when a loved one is charged with a crime. He knows how frightening it can be for some...

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