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New Bill Aims to Rescue CO Driver's License Program

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016   

DENVER - State Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, plans to introduce legislation in the House today that is designed to break through a political bottleneck keeping some immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses.

The Colorado Road and Community Safety Act became law in 2013, but services only are available at three Division of Motor Vehicles locations, one each in Colorado Springs, Denver and Grand Junction.

Liliana Botello, organizer for the statewide "I Drive Colorado" campaign, said making the law work should be a priority for anyone who drives, "so everybody here in the state of Colorado is safe on the roads. You want to feel safe that the person driving behind you, and the person driving in front of you, has a driver's license and knows the rules of the road."

Some legislators opposed the original Senate Bill 251, claiming state-issued identification could be seen as a form of amnesty for undocumented immigrants. In 2015, the Republican-led Joint Budget Committee essentially shut down the program by blocking spending authority on $166,000 in fees paid by immigrants for licenses.

Oscar Juarez-Luna, communications coordinator for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said the new bill will address a number of administrative and financial barriers to fully implementing the original law. According to the Colorado Fiscal Institute, more than 160,000 Coloradans are eligible for licenses, and Juarez-Luna said most of them are still waiting.

"Now we're facing a problem where the demand is too high, and people are not able to get appointments," he said. "The DMV went from five offices to three offices. They're only able to issue 93 appointments per day."

While the SB 251 licenses and IDs clearly indicate they are not valid proof of citizenship, he said, they are critical for taking driver-safety tests, buying car insurance, registering vehicles and providing proper identification to law enforcement.


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