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Immigrants protest DMV appointment wait times

Posted at 11:56 PM, Oct 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-03 01:56:26-04

Immigrants held a vigil Friday outside a Denver Department of Motor Vehicles, praying for more appointments for driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.

"I've been struggling since January, trying to make an appointment," said Aleida Ramirez, who has been in the country for 25 years and had a drivers' license when the rules were less stringent. "I had a driver's license, but it expired. I want to drive legally."

But the DMV is booking appointments 90 days in advance, and Ramirez said those appointments are all but impossible to get.

The number of offices offering the appointments dropped from five to three earlier this year, after Republicans refused to give spending authority for the self-funded program.

"I want a prayer vigil for all the people who have done it the right way," said Tom Tancredo, a former Congressman summing up the hard line stance that has stalled the program. "I don't care if it takes more time for someone who is here illegally to get a driver's license; I don't think they should get drivers licenses."

But some undocumented immigrants do succeed -- one woman we talked to said the key is to pay for what's supposed to be a free appointment.

"We heard someone was charging money to get you the appointment, and that's what we did," said Fernandina Garcia, who paid $50 to a third-party company to book an appointment for her license. "Our question is why can they get the appointments and we can't?"

DMV Spokeswoman Daria Serna said the agency has heard about these companies and encourages people not to use them because they could be scams.

"These appointments are free," said Serna.

She said some companies have several employees who constantly look for appointments, and they are not doing anything illegal.

The demand for licenses is so great that last year, the DMV asked for spending authority for ten offices.

Instead, the Joint Budget Community deadlocked on the issue and shut down all but one office.

Following the ensuing outcry, lawmakers reached a compromise to open three offices, total.

Activists at the protest Friday said they would plead their case again at the next join budget committee hearing in November.

"We need this to drive safely, to buy insurance and to be like everybody else," said Ramirez.

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