Colorado recently became the 11th state to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license without providing information regarding their immigration status in the United States and facing the risk of removal proceedings.
For most individuals who do not have legal status, this benefit is a golden opportunity. It enables them to drive their children to school, go to the grocery store and to the doctor if necessary. It also provides them with access to improve their employment status and live in areas where they will not have to rely on mass transportation, allowing them to improve their quality of life.
However, this new benefit is not as easily attainable as it was expected. In Colorado, the current system used by the Department of Motor Vehicles allows for only 155 appointments for driver’s licenses per day in the entire state. Because of this it is virtually impossible to obtain an appointment, which can only be scheduled on line, three months in advance. Many people are camping out in front of the offices nightly, with the hope of getting into the office the following day, to request a license.
It is estimated that over 150,000 people in Colorado are eligible, under the new provision, to obtain a state license. With the limiting number of 155 a day, the prospect of getting a license can take years.
Since the law passed on August 1st of this year, at least 8,000 appointments were made and close to 7,000 people were issued driver’s licenses, learner’s permits and State ID cards. There were approximately 1,200 no-shows. Another obstacles that individuals were not able to surmount was to provide proof of residence in the state, such as a phone bill or a lease. The other requirement is proof of identity, which would be a valid passport from their country of citizenship, since they may not have any other form of United States identification.
The state of Colorado has 56 offices of the Division of Motor Vehicles, but only five of these locations are able to process the licenses without proof of immigration status. These five offices are located in Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Grand Junction.
Another problem occurred last month, when the state issued several hundred driver’s licenses but because of a computer problem, they were all invalid. These individuals have been asked to return the licenses in order to start the process over again.
The November, mid-term elections are scheduled for the coming month, and there is fear and speculation that if the Republican candidate for governor, Bob Beauprez, is elected, he will eliminate the driver’s license allowance for undocumented immigrants. Many Hispanic groups are worried that the Democratic incumbent, Governor John Hickenlooper hasn’t done enough either to support their cause.
The frustration, with the Department of Motor Vehicle’s inability to process the driver’s licenses more expeditiously is being felt by the entire community. However, some feel that at least Colorado has taken the step to come to the aid of its residents, many of which do not hold immigration status. There have been several thousand individuals who have been helped by this new provision. The hope for the future is that following the elections next month, support for the undocumented community will continue and additional funding might be allocated to help fix the problem at the Department of Motor Vehicles.