DENVER (AP) – Immigrants living in the U.S. illegally would be eligible for driver’s licenses in Colorado under a proposal that advanced Wednesday in the state Senate as Democrats argued that the goal is to make sure everyone on the roads knows the rules and has car insurance.
The bill would make Colorado one of a handful of states that allows driver’s licenses for immigrants in the country without legal permission. Republicans who oppose the bill called it a form of amnesty for people breaking the law, and also asked for safeguards that verified that the immigrants did not have criminal records.
But the Democrat sponsoring the bill, Sen. Jessie Ulibarri from Commerce City, said the proposal would benefit every driver on the road. He noted that immigrants living illegally in the country are already driving.
“As those parents are driving those kids to school, do we want them to know the rules of the road? I think yes. Do we want them to be insured in the case of an accident? Yes. All of those things have value for us here in the state of Colorado,” Ulibarri said.
Democrats approved the bill on an unrecorded voice vote, meaning a final vote is needed to send it to the House.
“When law enforcement shows up to the scene of an accident, maybe someone’s been rear-ended, or there’s been a minor traffic accident or a bigger one, they want to identify who is at the scene, and trust the identity document that they’re getting,” Ulibarri said. “That’s not what happens today, because our policy discourages honesty at the expense of public safety.”
New Mexico, Illinois and Washington allow driver’s licenses for those illegally in the country. Utah grants immigrants a driving permit that can’t be used for identification.
Similarly, under Colorado’s bill, licenses would be clearly labeled to say the immigrants are not legal residents, and the identification could not be used to board a plane, vote, or to obtain public benefits.
Republicans said they still have reservations about the bill.
Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, repeatedly called it amnesty.
“It’s designed to create for those who are here illegally in violation of the law, to give them this stamp of approval from the state of Colorado that you’re good to go,” Lundberg said. “I have severe concerns with this bill.”
Republicans wanted lawmakers to amend the bill so the fingerprints immigrants would submit when they got their driver’s licenses would be referenced against a federal database to check for a criminal record. That amendment was rejected.
LINK: Senate Bill 251
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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