This afternoon in the Governor’s Mansion, Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) signed two bills aimed at supporting immigrants in the state, making it easier for them to obtain a driver’s license or identification card and providing funds for settlement programs. 

The “Immigrant Identification Document Issuance” bill disposes of many of the hurdles that immigrants had to clear to obtain a driver’s license or identification card, including the requirement to be a Colorado resident for two years before applying. 

The “Welcome, Reception, & Integration Grant Program” bill creates a program that provides grants to community programs that help immigrants get settled in Colorado.

These bills come in the wake of the considerable surge of immigrants arriving in Colorado during the last year. In February, Bloomberg reported that Colorado has seen a 665% increase in the number of new immigration court cases from 2021 to 2023, and in March, the Colorado Sun reported that close to 40,000 migrants had come to Denver in the 15 months before the article was written. 

This influx was on the mind of state Rep. Tim Hernández (D-Denver), one of the prime sponsors of the identification issuance bill, as he spoke at the bill signing. 

“On the North and West side of Denver, we have the largest influx of migrants from Venezuela and newcomers to the country,” Hernández said. “There are folks on 38th and Federal who are scrubbing windows and who I know would much prefer to be able to get a driver’s license so that they can get a job, so that they can get a car, and be able to safely provide their families’ wages.” 

Another benefit of the “Immigrant Identification Document Issuance” bill, according to Polis, is that it will lower insurance costs for everyone. 

“This [bill] changes [the requirements] to other forms of reasonable government-issued ID, so [immigrants] can get their driver’s license and insurance, which will help make our roads safer and drive down insurance costs for everybody,” Polis said. 

Opponents of the bill argue that it will encourage illegal immigration. 

“We should not be making it more attractive for people to break immigration laws by making identification easier to obtain if they have broken laws to get to Colorado,” Erin Meschke of Boulder testified at the state Senate Judiciary Committee in April.

The “Welcome, Reception, & Integration Grant Program” bill was presented with equal enthusiasm by Polis and its prime sponsors. 

State Rep. Lorenza Garcia (D-Adams County) expressed confidence in the nonprofit organizations that will benefit from this bill. 

“Our nonprofits are forced to fill the gap that our government agencies can not do, and these organizations are really good at what they do. They know this community, they talk to this community, they know the struggles,” Garcia said. “This bill will ensure that there are resources given to organizations who know how to do this work.”

State Sen. Lisa Cutter (D-Jefferson County), a prime sponsor of the legislation, said that bills like this, ones that welcome immigrants with open arms, are what Colorado is all about. 

“This [bill] is the epitome of what we should be. We should be a welcoming community,” she said.