DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado became one of the first states in the country on Friday to hand out driver’s licenses and identification cards to people who are in the country illegally.
There are approximately 10,000 people who have appointments to go through five different DMV offices in the state to get the driver’s licenses and ID cards, and the first of those appointments began in the morning.
The law is intended to help immigrants who are illegal because of holes in the federal immigration system, and it has Coloradans divided.
Some critics who actually support the law say the Colorado Department of Revenue hasn’t done enough in the 14 months since the law was passed to get ready, but executive director Barbara Brohl called it a balancing act.
“I disagree that it was a lack of planning. I think we have been planning all along. I think that we do have some constraints and I think that we’re working through them,” she said.
State officials say they could only find five DMV offices with sufficent space and technology to accommodate the massive need. To get a license, illegal immigrants will have to pass an extensive review process that includes lines of documentation and an in-person interview.
The appointments are not supposed to interrupt regular operation at the DMV.
Ulibarri says the law should make the roads safer and also protects illegal immigrants who can be the victims of crime.
“We’re learning from our own mistakes this time and that’s an okay thing as long as we’re committed to actually improving the process down the road,” said Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Adams County, who drafted the legislation.
Ulibarri told CBS4 the law should make the roads safer and it will protect illegal immigrants who can be victims of crimes.
“Folks will say ‘Oh, you don’t have a license, you don’t have insurance, and I understand you’re vulnerable … I’m going to extort you for the $1,000 that it’s going to take to fix my car that I was responsible for.’ And that is not okay either,” he said.
It could take up to a year to finish licensing the illegal immigrants that the state knows want to be licensed. There could be many more after that.