DENVER — Legislation that will allow undocumented immigrants to receive Colorado driver’s licenses — licenses that will clearly state the holder is not a legal U.S. resident — is just about headed to the governor’s desk.
Senate Bill 251 cleared the House Monday on a final 34-31 vote; three Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the measure.
Because the bill has been changed in the House, the Senate will have to concur with the changes or send the bill to a conference committee ahead of Wednesday’s midnight deadline, when the legislative session must come to an end.
Proponents of the bill, who attempted to put the proposal on last year’s ballot but failed to gather enough signatures, argue that the licenses will improve public safety.
“Hardworking immigrant Coloradans help build our economy, contribute to our communities and pay taxes – and they’re already driving their kids to school, their families to church and themselves to work,” said Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, the bill’s sponsor. “Making licenses available to them so they pass driver tests, buy auto insurance to make our roads and communities safer is just smart policy.”
But Republicans, who made a point of not arguing against the bill at length during second reading debate Monday, believe that the legislation, which will state that law enforcement cannot refer cases to federal immigration authorities based on these state licenses, amounts to amnesty.
“It’s going to make Colorado a sanctuary state, essentially,” said Rep. Brian Delgrosso, R-Loveland.
Republicans, however reserved with their opposition on the House floor, will no doubt use the new law, among others, to paint a composite picture of an incredibly liberal Democrat-led legislature.
Undocumented immigrants would have to present copies of state tax returns, a federal tax identification number and proof of identity from their country of origin, such as a passport or consulate card in order to get a special driver’s license.
New Mexico, Illinois and Washington distribute licenses to those who are in the country illegally.