Legislators should consider supporting the I Drive Colorado campaign because of the significant public health benefits of providing Colorado’s immigrants with a standard form of identification and the ability to drive legally.
In 2013, the Colorado state legislature passed Senate Bill 251, also known as The Colorado Road and Community Safety Act, which allowed up to six Colorado DMV offices to offer driver’s licenses to immigrants without documentation residing in Colorado. The program was seen as a key step toward improving the safety of Coloradans on the road by allowing immigrants to take vision and road tests, obtain a license, and secure car insurance. Built on a self-funded model (licenses for these immigrants cost $79 per applicant, versus the $25 for other Colorado residents), the program was intended to place no additional burden on taxpayers.
Since the law passed, many of the 120,000 immigrants eligible for this program have been facing major difficulties in obtaining a driver’s license, and an additional 60,000 are anticipated to become eligible due to the rescission of DACA and TPS (temporary protected status). The legislature cut the program’s budget and used the license fees to fund other legislative priorities. As a result, the number of participating DMV offices across the state dropped from six to three, severely limiting the number of appointments available and forcing immigrants to travel long distances to apply for a license. The budgetary cut also included a directive that DMV offices in Grand Junction and Colorado Springs close once 60,000 total licenses in Colorado are granted, which was based on early estimates of eligibility. This cap is expected to be reached in 2018, meaning only one office would remain unless further action is taken, and this one office would be in Denver, which would especially limit access for immigrants located in rural areas of the state.
Additionally, a minor drafting error incurred major inefficiencies in the program by erroneously excluding some immigrants from this program, specifically immigrants who have a Social Security Number as granted in the 1990s. Before welfare reform at the federal level passed in 1996 (the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act), immigrants received valid Social Security Numbers. Additionally, there are some others who were granted temporary status through work visas. Senate Bill 18-108, if passed, would include this group of immigrants.
Last but not least, Senate Bill 18-108 would also enable qualifying applicants to renew their driver’s licenses online as they are currently not allowed to do so. This will streamline the renewals process, rather than increasing demand for appointments in already overwhelmed system limited to Aurora, Denver, Grand Junction, or Colorado Springs offices.
In an effort to address the myriad issues, the I Drive Colorado campaign was established to advocate for greater access to driver’s licenses for immigrants without documentation, and to specifically for 2018, bring changes to the law through legislative and budgetary fixes. As the campaign supports SB 18-108 to improve upon SB 13-251, legislators should consider the significant public health benefits of providing Colorado’s immigrants with a standard form of identification and the ability to drive legally.I Drive Colorado Health White Paper - 2018