Colorado Road and Community Safety Act would let illegal immigrants get state driver's licenses

Sponsor says state sheriffs' group backs bill

DENVER - The sponsor of a bill allowing illegal immigrants to get Colorado driver's licenses says he has the support of the  state's sheriffs association.

Colorado Democratic Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, the sponsor of the bill, said illegal immigrants are already driving, whether it is to take their children to school or take loved ones to the hospital.

"If they're driving on our roads, we want to make sure that every single driver is licensed and insured," he said, adding that the County Sheriffs of Colorado are supporting the proposal.

The bill, unveiled at the State Capitol Monday, will be called the "Colorado Road and Community Safety Act."

Republicans oppose the Colorado bill.

"I think this is a step too far," said Republican Sen. Greg Brophy, who is concerned the driver's license legislation will encourage illegal immigrants to come to Colorado.

 Brophy said he believes the bill needs to be taken off the fast track until the federal government crafts a new national immigration policy.

"I really think we need the federal government to sort out some sort of an immigration package," Brophy said, "and we end up having more legal immigrants who want to become Americans, who want to come here to work. Then it's appropriate for us to have a system where they can get an ID here."

 Under the legislation, immigrants who want to obtain a driver's license would have to prove they're paying state and federal taxes, have an identification card from their country, and pass a driver's safety test.

Supporters of the bill argue illegal immigrants are already driving and that it would be better to have them licensed and insured.

In a letter supporting the legislation, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle called the ability to license and insure drivers "a simple matter of public safety."

Tania Valenzuela told 7NEWS she looks forward to the day she and her relatives will able to get a Colorado driver's license. As an undocumented immigrant, she can't have a license under the current state law.

"This is about our communities and my family," Valenzuela told 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart.

She believes a change in policy will make the streets safer.

"When incidents happen, people will…feel safe to call the police, because they are able to identify (themselves) and not deal with any complications," Valenzuela said.