DENVER – A controversial bill to grant state-sanctioned driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants has yet to be signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has been under siege for the past week by proponents and opponents of the measure.
Perhaps, the governor is timing the perfect bill-signing media blitz or stalling to further study the measure that could undermine efforts to improve secure identification requirements that were implemented as a result of recommendations from the 9/11 Commission.
“Llame Governador Hickenlooper y pida que firme SB-251 ‘El Acta para la seguridad en las carreteras y las comunidades de Colorado,” tweeted Mi Familia Vota Colorado. “Call Governor Hickenlooper and tell him to sign SB-251 ‘Colorado Road and Safety Act.’”
“Please call and fax Governor Hickenlooper. Tell him no driver’s licenses for illegal aliens,” implored Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform.
“There will be no background checks for illegal aliens who apply for a driver’s license… even if they are escaped felons or criminals recently released from custody by Janet Napolitano,” stated the “Alert – action required!” email.
The measure does not require applicants to be fingerprinted and screened for criminal records. The bill falls short of the federal REAL ID Act, which lists acceptable identification documents and requires verification.
Under Colorado’s law, applicants can provide passports, consular or military identification documents from their country of origin. But foreign consular and military ID documents do not comply with the REAL ID Act and very few can be validated as authentic documents by the state Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the Department of Revenue.
“The passports from foreign counties and some consular identification cards are in the U.S. Identification Manual that our employees use,” said Mike Dixon, director of the Colorado DMV.
“In the case of other consular documents and military identification documents, we do not have a means to evaluate those at this time,” said Dixon. “Those are documents in the REAL ID Act that are considered as not allowable.”
The REAL ID Act was adopted after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Several of the al-Qaeda terrorists who carried out that attack had obtained state-issued driver licenses and ID cards, which were used to board four commercial planes. Two were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center towers, and another was slammed into the Pentagon. The fourth plane was destined for the Capitol, but crashed into a Pennsylvania field as passengers struggled to take control of the jet from terrorists.
The Colorado bill, which was amended 38 times, raised many questions about its intent. In compliance with the REAL ID Act, the state’s license and ID for illegal immigrants would carry a disclaimer, “Not valid for federal identification, voting, or public benefit purposes.”
Yet, the bill was amended to allow an illegal immigrant with an ID card or driver’s license to apply “for federal public benefits or state and local public benefit.” That language alters a state statute that requires applicants to provide a valid Colorado ID or license to prove lawful presence.
The push to drive this bill through the state legislature was so intense that discussion was restricted when the bill was heard by members of the House Finance Committee. That surprised Rep. Janak Joshi (R-Colorado Springs) who had expected to discuss the measure and three amendments that were being proposed.
“The rules do not allow us to reject, as we found out earlier this session, an amendment in the Finance Committee,” said Chair Rep. Lois Court (R-Denver), who said she shared Joshi’s concern.
Committee chairs have latitude to make rules, but insiders said this was an unwritten rule dictated to Court by the House Majority leadership for the hearing on this bill. And on hand to offer the amendments was House Assistant Majority Leader Dan Pabon (D-Denver).
The bill was sponsored by Democrats Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs, Sen. Jessie Ulibarri of Commerce City and Rep. Jovan Melton of Denver, but Pabon had been a water carrier for amendments in the House.
The Colorado Latino Forum tweeted on May 6 that Pabon was “moving an amendment to require proof of continuous residency for two years, amendment passes.”
Pabon tweeted a clarification, “Bill does not require proof, only affidavit.”
The measure would require illegal immigrant applicants to sign an affidavit that the applicant is a current resident and document a state income tax return from the previous year. Or the applicant would sign an affidavit stating they’ve resided in the state for two years and provide evidence of residency.
Applicants would also sign a statement that they intend to seek lawful presence and provide a tax identification number issued by the Internal Revenue Service.