DENVER (AP) – Immigrants in Colorado illegally are closer to having a chance at getting driver’s licenses, a proposal Democrats say is aimed at improving safety on the roads, although Republicans remain skeptical.
The Colorado House gave preliminary approval to the bill Monday, advancing the measure to a final vote in the House. Proposals like Colorado’s have gained momentum this year, with Nevada and Connecticut considering similar measures, and Oregon last week signing a bill into law.
Democrats have argued everyone on the roads should know the rules and be insured, and that immigrants are already driving now, regardless of their legal status.
“This bill allows for responsible people to follow the law. This isn’t about extending citizen rights to noncitizens,” said Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, a sponsor of the bill.
The licenses would be labeled to say they are not valid for federal identification, and can’t be used to vote, obtain public benefits, or board a plane. Immigrants would have to prove they’re paying state and federal taxes and have an identification card from their country to get driver’s licenses.
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.
Republicans have argued there’s no way to verify with certainty that the people getting the licenses are who they claim to be, or that they have clean driving or criminal records.
“This bill is being pushed as a public safety measure but I believe it’s going to have the opposite effect,” said Rep. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs. “And the reason being is there is no mechanism in this bill to check the criminal background of applicants.”
The bill has already cleared the Senate.
Republicans have suggested amending 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. Democrats have rejected the amendment in both chambers.
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– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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