Mountain Dreamers team up with DMV to help immigrant community acquire driver’s licenses
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct that the state will be expanding the number of DMV offices offering licenses through the Colorado Road and Community Safety Act to 11 in 2020.
FRISCO — The Mountain Dreamers are teaming up with the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles to help members of the immigrant community on the Western Slope get their driver’s licenses and identification cards.
In 2013, the Colorado Legislature passed a bill into law authorizing the issuance of Colorado driver’s licenses, permits and identification cards to individuals who can’t demonstrate they’re in the United States legally or can only demonstrate temporary lawful residency.
For the past few years, individuals could visit only one of four DMV offices in the state — Grand Junction, Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs — to receive a license under the Colorado Road and Community Safety Act. Though, with a backlog of hopeful recipients — the Aurora office offers only 52 renewal appointments a day, and the other three combine for 155 appointments a day for new documents — the state is expanding the program to help address the demand.
Backers of the program believe it helps to create safer roads for everyone in the state and takes the pressure off immigrants in the community who worry about being pulled over without documentation.
“It is a big issue,” said Peter Bakken, executive director of Mountain Dreamers, a local immigrant rights advocacy group. “When I’ve gone door to door within the immigrant population here and in Eagle County, the No. 1 thing people want to know is how to get a license.
“Licensed drivers become more knowledgeable about traffic laws, purchase insurance and register their vehicles, all of which will result in safer roads. … When residents can present a valid Colorado driver’s license or ID when they encounter local law enforcement, it makes the jobs of our police and sheriff’s office much easier and gives them the information they need to keep us all safe. At the same time, this helps to build trust between our immigrant communities and our local police.”
Beginning Jan. 2, the state will begin expanding the number of DMV offices offering those licenses to 11. In January, offices will begin offering the service in Glenwood Springs, Montrose, Durango, Pueblo and Lamar. Offices in Alamosa and Sterling will begin offering the service in July.
In addition to moving through the backlog, the expansion is also meant to help address other problems with the program, including cutting down on missed appointments and individuals showing up unprepared along with bad actors fraudulently booking appointments with intent to illegally sell them.
This is where Mountain Dreamers comes in. As the program expands, the DMV has asked Mountain Dreamers, in cooperation with the I-Drive Coalition, to help lead workshops with members of the immigrant community in the area to make sure that individuals seeking licenses and identification cards have properly filled out their paperwork and are prepared for their appointments.
Bakken said Mountain Dreamers is seeking bilingual volunteers to help lead workshops meant to assist community members in getting ready for their DMV appointments. The group is looking for individuals who can attend periodic workshops beginning in January and who can help Spanish speakers fill out vital documentation, or even accompany applicants to their appointments or be available by phone to help translate.
Bakken said that once the group begins hosting workshops, they’ll submit a list of individuals straight to the DMV, which will return a list of appointments they’ll be able to attend. Anyone looking to assist with workshops and training should reach out to Bakken at firstname.lastname@example.org, and anyone seeking help on their application should reach out to Mountain Dreamers at mountaindreamers.org.
“Having a license directly impacts the public health of our community,” Bakken said. “Transportation determines families’ ability to access health care, schools, secure basic needs and fully take part in the life of their community. Summit County and the mountain region’s immigrants help drive our economy and contribute to the rich fabric of our community life. Allowing these Coloradans to obtain a driver’s license is therefore an important step toward making Summit County safer, healthier and more prosperous.”
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