New bill would grant undocumented immigrants CO licenses

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) – Colorado citizens are required to drive with a license and proof of insurance at all times, but undocumented immigrants can't always provide these things to authorities.

Now a new bill is passing through the senate which would allow them to legally be on the roads.

Undocumented immigrants would be able to visit the DMV to pick up a driver's license, just like a citizen. The new ID would be clearly different from a Colorado driver's license, but those supporting the bill say it would make the roads safer for us all.

Whether to the store or work, millions of drivers take to the roads in Colorado every day.

Now, a new bill in Colorado is working to give all undocumented immigrants a driver's license with hopes of making roads safer for everyone.

"If they are not licensed and insured, they put all of us at risk," Colorado Democratic Senator Jessie Ulibarri said. "Just by making sure they meet the minimum safety requirements of getting a license, [it would make] us all safer."

Senator Ulibarri is sponsoring the bill which would require undocumented immigrants to pay taxes, prove their identity and make themselves known to state and federal governments in exchange for a license and mandatory insurance.

"A large percentage of our Latino population is immigrant or foreign born," Hispanic Affairs Project program director Nicole Bernal Ruiz said.

It has the support of state sheriffs and police chiefs and passed Wednesday on a 3-2 party line vote. Still, some senators like Colorado Republican Senator Steve King found themselves conflicted when making a decision.

"Yes, there is an advantage to law enforcement for these people to have these types of identification,” Senator King said. "[But] there were just a number of issues I considered before I voted."

Ultimately he voted no, in part after listening to his Western Slope constituents.

“Their wishes were that they did not want to give the privilege of a driver's license to people that were in the United States and Colorado illegally," he said.

Others backing the bill look to states like New Mexico and Utah which have already implemented similar bills, and say immigrant families will have more opportunities to be involved in the Colorado way of life.

"They saw their uninsured rates go down and they also saw their hit and run rates go down," Senator Ulibarri said.

"Having access to a license like this would mean that they would just feel safer and more secure to be able to participate in the life of our community," Bernal Ruiz said.

The licenses could only be used for driving and identification purposes. They could not be used to vote, board a plane or get work.

Senate Bill 251 heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee next. From there it will go to the full Senate floor for debate.

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