Undocumented immigrants making push for driver’s licenses

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DENVER — Colorado voters this fall could decide whether undocumented immigrants should be able to get state-issued driver’s licenses, if proponents of Initiative 52 can get enough signatures to put the measure on the November ballot.

Needing 86,105 valid signatures to get the measure certified, supporters rallied Tuesday morning at the state Capitol in an effort to raise awareness about their efforts.

“Right now under the law, people can’t get car insurance, they’re not allowed to buy a car, because they can’t get the driver’s license,” said Jennifer Piper, a volunteer with the Yes on 52 campaign.

“Here in Colorado we have the opportunity to make our roads safer and our communities safer and encourage people to be able to report crime and be a part of this community,” Piper said.

Under the initiative, undocumented immigrants would be able to receive driver’s licenses after proving that they’re paying taxes and living in the state.

To do so, applicants will have to obtain their taxpayer identification number, known as ITIN, to have paid taxes in Colorado for at least one year and to have a passport, birth certificate or other document issued by the immigrant’s country of origin.

Jose Sanchez, a businessman supporting the Yes on 52 campaign, argues that licenses are important for undocumented immigrants because “they are driving anyway,” and so “it would be better for the public for those drivers to have licenses and to be able to buy insurance for their cars.”

“We estimate that up to 150,000 residents of Colorado would qualify for the state ID or the driver’s license if Initiative 52 is approved,” Sanchez said.

Prior to 1999, Colorado residents could obtain driver’s licenses or ID cards without regard for their immigration status. But starting in that year, people requesting those documents had to prove that they were in the country legally.

In 2006, Gov. Bill Owens signed into law new restrictions and requirements for obtaining driver’s licenses, including, for example, presenting an original birth certificate.

State Sen. Ted Harvey believes those reforms aren’t likely to be overturned this fall.

“Driver’s licenses allow people to register to vote, to apply for public assistance like food stamps,” Harvey said. “The last thing we need to do is to be compromising our entire system.

“They have broken the laws of this country to be here in the first place. Why should we
give them documentation to justify why they’re here? It just doesn’t make sense.”

New Mexico and Washington are the only two states that provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. In Utah, undocumented people can receive Driving Privilege Cards, but not licenses.

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