Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants initiative faces uphill climb

Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants initiative faces uphill climb

POSTED: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 12:45pm

UPDATED: Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 2:04pm

The backers of Initiative 52, which would allow undocumented residents to obtain Colorado driver's licenses, know they have a lot of work to do just to get the measure on the November ballot.

"We're going to continue this campaign no matter what, and if it doesn't pass this year, we'll be back again," said Jennifer Piper, an organizer with the campaign.

But, organizers are hoping to build on the 20,000 signatures they've already gathered and are revving up their efforts this weekend, needing 86,105 valid signatures by August 6 in order be certified by the Secretary of State's office.

Like the community they're trying to help, the proponents of Initiative 52 lack the resources typically needed to mount a successful ballot measure campaign.

Asking for donations mostly at the public festivals where organizers have been gathering signatures, the campaign has raised just about $7,500 so far; and many organizers are working for free and covering expenses for gas and materials themselves.

"We are from the roots, we are from the community. That means we don't have resources," organizer Ignacio Ramirez told members of the media at a press conference inside Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant on East Colfax in Aurora.

"We are immigrants. We are here because we are not afraid. We are not hiding from nobody. We are here working, in the restaurant, in the field.

"We are workers. We are humans. And we are working for the future. We are not the problem. We are part of the solution. And we are looking for the future. We are not looking [to] make more problems."

Proponents argue that enabling undocumented residents to obtain driver's licenses will make the streets safer because fewer of them will flee the scene after getting in car accidents; and, they say, more people paying license fees will generate revenue for the state and add to the base of organ donors.

"We have the opportunity to make our roads safer and our communities safer and encourage people to be able to report crime and be a part of this community," said Piper.

But many conservatives oppose the initiative because a license, in their view, would legitimize a group of people who have broken the law.

"They have broken the laws of this country to be here in the first place. Why should we give them documentation to justify why they're here?" said Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch. "It just doesn't make sense."

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