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Licenses For Undocumented Passes Colorado House/Senate, Waiting On Gov


 Rep. Jovan Melton with SB 251 Supporters

It was with some resignation House Republicans voted for the final time against granting licenses to undocumented immigrants.  It was the third and final reading of the law.  If the majority of the Colorado house voted for the law, it would go the Senate for conformance and then to the desk of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper for signature.  The vote was exactly as predicted, 32 Republicans against.   The Democrats carried the day with 34 votes for the measure.

 

 The House Prepares For The Vote


Even if Governor Hickenlooper signs the law, immigrants won’t be driving legally in the state of Colorado any time soon.  In order to prepare the Colorado Department of Revenue which oversees Colorado licenses, the first license can’t be had until August of 2014, a little more than a year away.

 

 Colorado House Republicans

However, a year passes quickly, especially for people who have been waiting 13 years for the opportunity to apply for a license.  It was 1999 when the last immigrant was licensed and when the right to obtain a license by an undocumented person was withheld.

 Colorado Sen. Jessie Ulibarri Greets Supporters

 

Meanwhile, immigration reform is alive and moving in the U.S. Congress.  If passed, 7 out of 10 immigrants will have an opportunity to adjust their status to a “registered” person.  Under the current proposal proffered by the Gang of 8, immigrants who stay out of trouble for 10 additional years will be able to apply as permanent residents.  Follwing that, the immigrants will be able to apply for citizenship, providing the current 27 year backlog of waiting applications is cleared.

 

 

The issue of drivers licenses is important to all immigrants.  Just because immigrants can register does not necessarily mean they will be able to obtain licenses.  Licenses are managed on the State level.  Hence, some states may take the position immigrants cannot obtain licenses under their laws.  For a few states, including Washington State, Utah, New Mexico and Illinois, the matter is already resolved.  Immigrants can obtain licenses in those states.   If the Governor of Colorado signs the new law into effect, immigrants will be able to obtain a license in Colorado, as well.

 


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Colorado Undocumented Fighting For Licenses

The Committee, Licences for all people in Colorado announced it is close to having the required votes for passage.  If the law goes into effect, undocumented immigrants will have a chance to obtain drivers licenses in the Rocky Mountain State.

The Committee says there are compelling reasons to grant immigrants a license. First, there is the issue of fairness.  Colorado has public transportation, but the wide open venues spread miles apart make public transportation impractical at times.  This is especially true when people have to pick up children, get to work, stop at the store and have it all done so the kids can do homework.  Immigrants who can’t drive find themselves relegated to inner city neighborhoods with few job opportunities or shopping alternatives.

 

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Second, it is a matter of public safety.  Insurance can usually be had by most immigrants, even if they don’t have a license.  However, the quality of the insurance is often just enough to meet minimum standards.  Better insurance at more reasonable rates can be had by those who have a license.  Everyone does better when drivers are fully covered.

Public safety is also affected when police don’t have to spend extra time and assign additional patrol cars when an immigrant is stopped.  By simply presenting a license, the officer can identify the immigrant in the same manner they identify citizens.  That makes police work more efficient, allowing officers to spend the majority of time on more critical calls.

Immigrants who obtain licenses will have to take and pass a test. There is a benefit to all drivers when every driver studies the Colorado driving laws, which can be complicated.

Colorado is expecting the licensing effort to provide an economic boom to the state.  Immigrants spend money like all residents.  When they are able to effectively harness transportation, they can shop for the best prices rather than being relegated to buying fewer goods at higher prices in local shops.  Each sale, of course, generates sales tax which will help fund state services.

In order to qualify for the license, immigrants will have to provide proof they filed and paid state sales tax.  Most immigrants already file taxes, but those who have not filed will certainly pay taxes now.  Immigrants will also have to provide a solid proof of I.D.

Colorado citizens are safer when all resident drivers are

required to pass the written and practical driver’s exam, proponents say.

Even though the immigrants pay taxes, the license will be coded so that many state services remain unavailable to the immigrants.  In addition, the license won’t work for boarding airplanes, entering federally controlled buildings or for voting.

Colorado may soon become a forward looking state when it comes to immigrants.  Many people are re-evaluating the immigrant issue after the past election.  Some Republicans sensed the anti-immigrant rhetoric had changed the course of elections when citizen voters showed up to protest extreme and unfair anti-immigrant laws.

While some have always analyzed what immigrants cost the state, the new question is, what do immigrants contribute.  An honest answer in a few words is, a lot.  Most people, including Republicans and Democrats, feel there is a net benefit to having immigrants.   The benefit could extend into votes for whichever party is willing to take immigrant concerns into consideration during lawmaking sessions.

Even if the law passes today, there is an extensive lead time built into the law.  The lead time exists to give state administrators an opportunity to assess the costs of the new program, and to adjust fees so immigrants pay that cost.

While an obvious distinction will exist on non-citizen licenses, language has been built into the statute to prevent the licenses from being used to profile immigrants.  Officials, including voting referees and law enforcement, will be able to easily distinguish a citizen license from a non-citizen license.

However, an indication the person is a non-citizen by itself will not provide probable cause for further investigation by police officers absent additional evidence the officer has a reasonable suspicion a crime has been committed.  This should prevent the police from spending time on pointless stops in which the driver has done nothing to warrant the stop.

The Committee Licenses for All Coloradoans says they are short votes to get the measure passed in Colorado.  For this reason, they ask all people to contact their state legislator to urge the passage of the bill.

Granting licenses to Colorado immigrant residents will stimulate the economy, assure all licensed drivers are able to acquire quality auto insurance and return a sense to fairness in government for immigrants and the communities that depend upon the tax base immigrants help create.

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