The department of motor vehicles in Colorado will join 10 other states, D.C and Puerto Rico in issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants starting tomorrow. The law has been controversial, as are most things regarding immigration, as just over two-thirds of Americans don’t believe that illegal aliens should be allowed to have licenses.
The program will likely be much more limited than originally planned, as only five of the state’s 56 licensing offices will be taking appointment, and only 155 will be taken per day. Four of the five are along the front range, which also causes concern for those who live outside the corridor. The state has an estimated 150,000 people are expected to try to take advantage of the program, meaning that at the current rate it would take years for them all to be processed.
Opponents of the measure don’t think that illegal immigrants should be allowed to have driver’s licenses, presumably because they think having unlicensed drivers on the road is preferable to having licensed ones. Not having a license also limits the availability of vehicle insurance and access to other services. Immigration opponents often decry the lack of assimilation by immigrants, though they fight every program that attempts to facilitate just that.
The licenses would be differentiated from standard licenses by a black banner that states that the licenses are not to be used for purposes of voting or other federal identification purposes. They will cost around $50 each, the higher price tag is to cover the costs of the program so it will be in compliance with Colorado’s TABOR laws.
The main delay in implementing the program on a larger scale is the simple logistics of such a program. There was much more demand than originally anticipated, and the DMV was simply overwhelmed. “There are challenges logistically that we didn’t anticipate,” said the bill’s sponsor, Senator Jessie Ulibarri, a Democrat from Westminster. he said. “The most important thing people can do is understand whether they are eligible for these new licenses.”
But the most important thing is that thousands of Colorado residents, many of whom are already driving, will now be able to do so after demonstrating proficiency in doing so, thus minimizing the risk to themselves and other drivers on the road.
“It’s important because if you have an accident or something, you would have your license,” Yolanda Vega, an immigrant from Chihuahua, told The Denver Post in an interview translated by her daughter. “I could drive to work.”