driver's license bill
deserved to be law
27 , 2002
Reverend José H. Gomez
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver
Colorado Senate Bill
67 died on Valentine's Day in the Senate's Government, Veterans and Military
Relations Committee. Its defeat will hurt many good people in our state,
and concerned citizens need to hope, pray and work earnestly to ensure that
next year, the legislative result will be different.
SB 67 would have allowed
undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses. The main arguments
in favor of such legislation are well known. They're worth restating one
more time, though, so they remain fresh in people's minds. SB 67 may be
dead for this year, but the underlying need for it is very much alive.
First, SB 67-style
legislation would serve our public safety.
Colorado has a legitimate
health and safety interest in licensing those who use its roads. More than
50,000 undocumented immigrants now drive on state roads unlicensed. If a
job is at stake a job that requires driving a worker who cannot
apply for a license will almost certainly drive anyway. And of course, unlicensed
drivers are uninsured drivers, which makes them far more likely to flee
the scene of an accident.
Second, SB 67-style
legislation would aid law enforcement. A driver's license makes it easier
to track outstanding warrants, repeat offenders and child support delinquents.
It expands the database of fingerprints for crime investigation. It increases
the willingness of immigrant witnesses and victims to aid crime investigations.
It allows police to deal with traffic violators without becoming embroiled
in policy issues. It also relieves police from issuing tickets for which
there is no possible resolution. (Immigrants are rarely deported for driving
and usually return unlicensed to Colorado roads.)
Third, it would not
violate federal immigration law. Immigration law places no requirement on
states regarding the licensing of drivers. The Immigration and Naturalization
Service is not significantly interested in unlicensed drivers; rather, INS
priorities focus on serious foreign criminals, terrorists and immigrant
Moreover, state driver's
licenses are irrelevant to work eligibility, government programs and benefits.
Fourth, it would arguably
assist the fight against terrorism. Colorado licenses provide a database
of identities including photographs and fingerprints. Excluding large numbers
of people from this database could actually work against police efforts
Fifth and finally,
it's the right thing to do. No one is a "criminal" for merely
being an undocumented immigrant; it's a status with no criminal penalty.
In fact, Colorado is host to thousands of working undocumented immigrants
and depends economically on their labor. A driver's license simply
allows these people to drive safely and with insurance in Colorado while
the U.S. Congress debates future policy on immigration.
Shortly before the
recent debate on SB 67, Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote to key members of
the State Senate noting that, "SB 67 acknowledges the reality that
thousands of good but undocumented immigrant workers live in our state,
contribute productively to our economy and deserve the ability to travel
safely and with insurance while here. I'm convinced that SB 67 will help
improve security on our roads for the whole community, and it will add a
very worthwhile element of stability to the lives of immigrant workers and
SB 67 was a bill that
urgently deserved to be a law. Both justice and common sense support it.
We need to remember that for next year. This is an issue Coloradans can't
afford to forget.