Guest post: Expand access to driver’s licenses for Colorado’s undocumented immigrants

Colorado residents unable to prove they are in the U.S. lawfully have been able to apply for special driver's licenses for almost five years. Appointments, already backfilled for months, may become harder to get this year. (Image of driver's license courtesy of Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles)
Colorado residents unable to prove they are in the U.S. lawfully have been able to apply for special driver's licenses for almost five years. Appointments, already backfilled for months, may become harder to get this year. (Image of driver's license courtesy of Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles)

Colorado is home to many undocumented immigrants. These individuals do not have the same opportunity to access a driver’s license as others Coloradans do — despite the passage of legislation that allowed them to obtain a license. This unequal access is because only three of the state’s 36 license branch offices currently provide license services to undocumented immigrants. They are in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Grand Junction. These services will soon be restricted to the Denver office by the spring of 2019. As it is now, these immigrants struggle to schedule an appointment.  Each week, 130 appointment slots open, but they are quickly filled and booked out at least three months in all three locations.

Driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants need to be offered at more office locations. This is an important public health and safety issue, and it affects family wellbeing. A driver without a license is less likely to stop if involved in an accident. A citation for driving without a license can mean court fees and other penalties that could hurt the family financially. On the other hand, not driving for lack of a license also could harm families because it limits access to work, community support networks, doctor’s appointments, and so on. The ripple effects are many. Not being able to take sick children to the doctor for treatment or for vaccinations, for example, increases the risk of adverse public health impacts.

Farmers experiencing labor shortages due, in part, to transportation issues among undocumented workers were the main driver of the license program. Allowing undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses ultimately has helped improve local economies because workers now have the means to get to jobs in places without public transportation or where it’s not possible to walk or bike.

The legislature last session recognized the backlog in the license program was an issue and passed an amendment to allow online renewals, but the undocumented immigrant population does not typically have easy access to the internet. Additionally, undocumented immigrants typically feel more comfortable with in-person meetings or appointments.

With the number of offices dropping from three to one in the coming months, it is important to examine how these services can be improved upon. The legislature introduced SB19-139 and it would expand the access of these services to 10 offices in different parts of the state. If the bill does not pass, soon only the Denver office will remain open. Expansion is an important public health and safety issue, and I encourage people to contact their representative and voice their support for SB19-139.

The Colorado Independent occasionally runs guest posts from government officials, local experts and concerned citizens on a variety of topics. These posts are meant to provide diverse perspectives and do not represent the views of The Independent. To pitch a guest post, please contact tips@coloradoindependent.com or visit our submission page

2 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting point of view. However, it seems that if unauthorized foreign nationals really wish to drive they have the option of repatriating themselves. Once back in their own countries they will be able to quickly acquire driver licenses as well as avoid the prospect of being arrested.

  2. Article states undocumented. Very interesting. My wife turned 83 in April of this year, and she received a letter from California, IRS that someone in USA ( they did not tell me what state, when I called them. But they collect such info for all of USA). This letter informed my wife that someone applied for a job, using her social security number.
    ——-We have heard nothing since, but my wife dropped her driver’s license this past year (2018) and received a Colorado ID card. Wife no longer drives, due to health, and physical conditions.
    —– Many years ago, in West Denver, during a quick moving rain, ice storm, wife and I was shopping at Camping World in west Denver. In a 15 minute period, icey roads made roads slippery, and my 3/4 ton Van, slid sidesways on I-70 bridge, and stopped within about 6-8 inches of a car that had already slipped over to curb, against the bridge. I had time to get out, ask the lady if she was okay, when a policeman showed up, from talking to other drivers, and gave us forms, to fill out – and exchange info, and report to police station with completed form, within 24 hours. He just got back to police car, when unlicensed, Mexican man, driving a car, came sliding and slammed into my van, pushing my van against that car, and damaging it. We all reported at different times the next day.
    ——–Mexican driver had to pay $100 for not having drivers’ license, and he had no insurance. Woman in car, and her insurance company sued me, since I had insurance, and she claimed injury – losing 4 months of work as an aide, with total of over $10,000 for total loss of car. My insurance company met with theirs and paid, it, then I got notice my premiums would be increased for next 3 years, unless I had another accident, and insurance would be cancelled. I wrote to Insurance Commissioner of Colorado, and they contacted my company in the East, asking why I was 100% responsible, with police reports backed my statement, accurately.
    They dropped that and did not increase my premiums, and I sincerely thanked the Colorado Commissioner by letter. BUT THIS IS NOT FAIR, RIGHT, AND THOSE ILLEGALS ENDANGER OTHERS, DUE TO CRIME, ALCOHOL, DRUGS, AND TOO MANY IN OUR JAILS AND PRISONS. in discussions with Arapahoe County Sheriff, over 22% of Colorado Prison has illegal aliens imprisoned, for felony convictions. And we have whole lot more arrested, and held by ICE, with no jail or prison space to hold them, so are contracting that to civilian jailers and prisons. Time to clean the immigration laws, and enforce them.
    ——-

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