Published: August 1, 2014
Dozens of undocumented immigrants in Colorado can now drive legally on roads across the state.
Friday, the Division of Motor Vehicles issued 62 licenses, 23 permits and five identification cards to undocumented immigrants under the Colorado Road and Community Safety Act, signed into law in June 2013.
Of the 155 people scheduled for appointments Friday, 148 showed up and 90 people left with one of the three documents.
Eleven of those applicants received a driver's license from the Colorado Springs state Driver's License Office at 2447 N. Union Blvd., one of only five offices in the state authorized to provide the licenses.
"All in all, the day went very well," said the Department of Revenue, which administers the program, in a news release.
Each applicant was required to provide documents that prove their name, identity, date of birth and Colorado residency. Once over that hurdle, they had to pass written and driving tests to receive the license, which cannot be used for federal identification, voting or public benefit purposes.
Those taking the driver's test were required to be insured or take the test in a car that was insured.
The process wasn't without hiccups, said Yesenia Beaschochea, the south regional organizer for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. She spent the day translating for and assisting each of the roughly 30 people who showed up for appointments in Colorado Springs on Friday.
"The test in Spanish is badly translated," she said. "A lot of people didn't come with certified tax forms."
Others had a tough time proving 24 months of continuous presence in the state, though many others were able to supply bank account information. One applicant had to call her bank during the process, Beaschochea said.
The majority of applicants she said, came from Aurora and Denver. Two came from Pueblo, and two from Colorado Springs, including Jorge Rea and his wife, Sandra Remigio, both from Guanajuato, Mexico.
Beaschochea helped translate the written test for Rea.
He didn't pass.
"Next time," Rea said in English.
The driver's manual he would have used to study hasn't been translated into Spanish yet. Officials said it should be translated by the end of the month, after the English version is updated and finalized.
His wife had also signed up for an appointment but did not have the required documents in her name.
The Colorado Springs office, in addition to the offices in Denver, Aurora, Grand Junction and Fort Collins, are booked for the next 90 days, which means Rea, Remigio and others among the 58 who left state offices empty-handed on Friday will have to wait until November before they get a second shot at obtaining a license.
While Remigio said the process was complicated and noisy, she said they will be back.
"That's the heartbreaking part," said Beaschochea, who like others activist in Latino communities believes more offices should be available to offer the service.
But Department of Revenue Executive Director Barbara Brohl said resources are limited.
"This program is completely and totally self-funded," she said.
The special licenses cost $29.50, more than the $21 legal residents pay.
"We wanted to make sure we didn't price them so high that people wouldn't be able to get the license," she said.
The difference in price helps cover the state's 13 part-time and five full-time employees who have been hired on specifically to handle these services, she said.
The extra help, paired with the appointment requirement, meant the DMV's normal day-to-day operations weren't affected, officials said.
Spokeswoman Daria Serna said the offices were scheduled to handle about four appointments per hour.
Brohl is not sure how long the demand will remain high, but said the office will continue to work to smooth out the process.
"We want to make sure to keep track of the certain reasons individuals couldn't get license's today," she said.
About 10,000 people statewide are signed up for appointments, including roughly 2,000 at the Colorado Springs office.
Colorado was among eight states that passed laws last year allowing driver's licenses for people in the country illegally.
Two of those states, Illinois and Nevada, have started issuing the documents. California plans to start in January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Lisa Walton: 476-1623