Colorado Issues Driver's Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants

It is the day thousands of immigrants residing in the U.S. state of Colorado have been awaiting for months. They can now get driver's licenses, even if they are in the country illegally.

The Colorado law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses and identification cards took effect Friday. The National Conference of State Legislatures says Colorado is one of 11 states to pass such legislation, plus Washington D.C.

But the move is not without its critics, who see it as legitimizing illegal behavior.

Immigrant and longtime resident in the United States Rosalva Mireles, left, is photographed and processed for her permanent drivers license at a Department of Motor Vehicles office, in Denver on Aug. 1, 2014. /AP Immigrant and longtime resident in the United States Rosalva Mireles, left, is photographed and processed for her permanent driver's license at a Department of Motor Vehicles office, in Denver on Aug. 1, 2014. /AP

Supporters, meanwhile, say the laws will lead to safer roads and prevent people from taking advantage of immigrants who are vulnerable because of their legal status.

Colorado began registering undocumented immigrants for the program on July 1. So many people rushed to make appointments, the scheduling website crashed.

Critics accuse Colorado authorities of not doing enough to prepare in the year since the law was passed.

Immigrants vying to participate have also complained that there are not enough licensing centers offering appointments -- only five across the state. More than 9,500 people are signed up for appointments through the next 90 days, with many more expected as the rollout continues.

To get a license, immigrants without legal status will have to show their taxpayer identification numbers, as well as bills or other documents to prove they have lived in Colorado the past two years. They must also pass a driving test.

Those in Colorado with temporary legal status also qualify for licenses under the new law and are not required to make an appointment.

The program is expected to get its funding from the fees for the licenses -- around $50 per person.

VOA News / Aug. 02, 2014 08:49 KST