DENVER – A bill to grant state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards to Illegal immigrants cleared its first hurdle Wednesday night – passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, 3 to 2, with Republican state Sens. Steve King of Grand Junction and Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud voting in opposition.
Senate Bill 251, sponsored by state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri (D-Commerce City), would repeal state laws that prohibited granting drivers licenses and ID cards to illegal immigrants. Ulibarri amended the bill to comply with the federal rules of the REAL ID Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005, and became effective this past January.
Enforced by Homeland Security, it requires that the face of licenses and IDs for illegal immigrants be unique and state clearly on the front, “Not REAL ID compliant.” The Act was adopted after 9/11 terrorists had obtained legal driver’s licenses issued by Florida.
Ulibarri said the amended bill would be acceptable to Homeland Security because it could not be used for voting in elections or IDs to board planes.
But, state Deputy Attorney General David Blake said the office is neutral because the bill requires further legal study. If passed, Colorado would join New Mexico, Maryland and Illinois in issuing driver’s licenses and ID cards to illegal immigrants.
If the measure does not comply with the REAL ID Act, King said that it could jeopardize the state’s current compliance with the federal law. King said that he voted against the bill because of that concern and in response to his constituents who oppose it.
“If there are additional compliance issues we need to meet through the Department of Homeland Security, I am committed to making that happen,” declared Ulibarri.
Proponents, some speaking in Spanish through English interpreters, argued that the bill will increase road safety because illegal immigrants would now be able to obtain drivers licenses and car insurance. County sheriffs and city police officers support the measure, however, no one testified against the bill.
“I think it’s important that this measure move forward,” said Ulibarri. “There is a sense of immediacy to ensure that our roads and communities are safe.”
“This would probably decrease the number of uninsured motorists initially, but that’s the only argument that holds water,” said Lundberg. “I don’t see this discouraging anyone who chooses to drive illegally today to choose not to drive if they are not capable of getting a license.”
If the measure becomes law, Lundberg said it would become a “magnet for illegal immigrants” to come to Colorado and increase problems associated with living here illegally.
The measure to grant drivers licenses to illegal immigrant follows two bills that passed the General Assembly – protection from being reported by local law enforcement to Federal immigration officials and the authorization to pay in-state tuition rates afforded to legal citizens.
SB 251 is nearly identical to a ballot initiative last year that failed last year because the “Driver’s Licenses for All” campaign obtained an estimated 21,000 valid signatures – way short of the required 86,105 petition signatures.
Like the failed ballot initiative, Ulibarri’s measure originally required “NONCITIZEN” be printed on the back of the driver’s license or instruction permit.
That designation provoked proponents who claimed it would encourage racial profiling. After threatening to yank their support of the bill, most are back on board – the bill was amended to remove the “NONCITIZEN” notation.
Under the guidelines of SB 251, illegal immigrants would be required to provide documents to prove residency in Colorado through state and federal income tax returns from the preceding year, and provide a Social Security or individual taxpayer identification number as well as a passport, consular identification card or military document from the country of origin.
“This is one more step down the road of amnesty,” declared Lundberg. “…That doesn’t work.”