Immigrants’ rights groups are gearing up for a fight in Colorado over the state’s driver’s license program for undocumented immigrants.
The Colorado Road and Community Safety Act was passed by the legislature in 2013 and allows the state to issue driver’s licenses to people who cannot fully prove they are citizens of the United States.
This is a huge deal for the undocumented community. Without a license, a drive to the grocery store or dropping your kids off at school, runs the risk of being stopped for a minor traffic violation that could result ultimately in arrest and deportation.
Victor Galvan, with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, told KGNU’s Rossana Longo Better, that while the original legislation was welcomed by the immigrant community, they are working on a campaign to fix problems with the bill.
“The first priority is professional drivers license, the possibility for someone who is undocumented to be able to obtain a professional driver license in the state of Colorado. Especially, for people who have social security numbers, who are undocumented but were able to apply for a license and now that DACA is repealed, it is going to be more important than ever. A DACA recipient whose work permit is expired, technically undocumented but have a valid social security, will loose their driver’s licenses eventually, if we don’t have a legislative fix.”
The original 2013 legislation had a 66,000 appointment cap that was negotiated on the bill in a footnote. That limited the number of DMV offices in the state that could issue these licenses to 3.
“We have been fighting that cap because as soon as we hit that cap we go down to 1 office, it will only serve 93 people a day, for a population of a 135,000 people who need the license, so we never quite ever have a Colorado population that is fully licensed to drive, at least those who qualify to obtain the license. A lot of people have been deported just based on the fact that they had been pulled over by police, especially before we repealed the “show me your papers law” back in 2013.”
Starting in December, there will be renewal-only appointments for the thousands of undocumented immigrants who got licenses since the program’s inception. As those licenses expire, there is a real concern that there won’t be enough appointments made available for everyone who needs them.
An additional 52 daily appointments will only be available at the Division of Motor Vehicles’ office in Aurora, at E. 14391 4th Ave. starting December 1st, and that brings the total daily appointments available to 207.
Malachi Dray, a volunteer with CIRC has been conducting trainings for immigrants about the program. At a recent training at Intercambio in Boulder, Dray said that there are ways to improve the program like automating the appointment system on-line.
“Instead of being taken advantage of by people who are going to try to sell them an appointment, we could have the most efficient way of getting the people who need them, to have those slots.”
Dray says that in the light of the current political climate which is hostile to immigrants, it is important more than ever that people can access driver’s licenses and state ID.
“People need a basic means of presenting themselves to their government, which is behaving in an increasingly racist and repressive, authoritarian manner. In that context it is important that people be able to get all of their rights and services.”
Rossana Longo Better is the KGNU/League of Women Voters Boulder County public policy/media intern.