Back in 2013, Colorado lawmakers passed bipartisan legislation granting special driver’s licenses to those without documentation. But leaders in the agricultural industry, as well as immigrant rights advocates, had long insisted that the program be expanded to meet demand.
Only three DMV offices in the state — Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Lakewood — currently issue these special licenses, which allow a person to insure their car but not to vote or obtain public benefits. At a Senate Finance Committee in February, agricultural workers from as far away as La Junta testified that the wait for an appointment can take several months. They said they also must drive several hours away, forcing them to miss work and incur additional costs.
The Colorado Livestock and Colorado Dairy Farmers associations also supported the program as many of their employees lack documentation. Brock Herzberg, who testified on their behalf, said he was shocked to learn that the coveted DMV appointments were being sold by third parties for as much as $1,000.
“Some of these renewals, not just the original appointments (…) are being sold because there’s just not enough space,” Herzberg said.
Nationally half of all dairy workers and crop workers are believed to be undocumented. Bruce Goldstein with Farmworker Justice said that’s why typically conservative individuals will support special licensure programs; employers need workers to have reliable transportation and operate vehicles on the farm.
“(These immigrants) live and work in rural areas,” he said. “They need to drive to be able to work to take their kids to school functions, to go shopping.”
The bill, which passed the senate on April 11, is expected to be signed by Governor Jared Polis and would expand the program to 10 DMV offices across the state. The fees for the licenses will pay for running the program and implementing the expansion.