Dozens of people thanked the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday for special cards that will allow people in the country illegally to legally drive in the Silver State next year.
But at a public hearing held by the agency, the same people also pleaded for the DMV to make the driver authorization cards appear similar to driver licenses so they don’t draw attention from law enforcement officers who might be prone to making arrests based on their possible illegal status.
It is not the policy of the Metropolitan Police Department to ask about legal status when officers pull over motorists. And the card will clearly state on the front that it is not to be used as a valid form of identification.
“In Florida, for example, the state was considering putting a big ‘I’ for ‘Illegal’ on the front of its card,” said Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, in an interview at the Sawyer Building after she addressed DMV officials. “We’re proud of how well the process has come so far, and our hope is that nothing gets in the way or makes it more difficult for the community to apply for the card.”
As many as 60,000 Nevada residents, the majority of them living in the state illegally, are expected to apply for the cards at the beginning of the year when Senate Bill 303 goes into effect.
Among those praising the driver authorization card was Barbara Silva, who has been living and working in Las Vegas for more than two decades.
Silva, who’s in the midst of studying for her GED, said the card will help her tremendously by letting her legally drive to and from work, whether it’s cleaning houses or baby-sitting while she tries to obtain a higher education to better her employment situation.
“It’s going to take so much stress out of my life,” said the 48-year-old who moved to the United States from the Gulf Coast Mexican state of Vera Cruz. “I can’t believe how great this country is, and I want to thank everybody involved.”
Nevada is the eighth state in the country to allow residents who are here illegally to drive. The presumption is that the roads will be safer because these new motorists will have to pass driver’s license exams and purchase car insurance.
But critics say the state shouldn’t be meddling with what essentially is a breakdown in federal immigration laws that should be handled by the federal government.
“We’re giving them a privilege for breaking our laws, and that’s absurd,” said Bruce Cram, who voiced his discontent via teleconference from Carson City.
However, DMV spokesman Kevin Malone said the the hearing was being held to finalize the regulations for a law that already has been approved by legislators, not to weigh the law’s merits.
Malone said all of the suggestions made during the public hearing will be taken into consideration before the final regulations are sent to the Legislative Counsel Bureau in Carson City, which will then review them before placing them on the Legislative Commission’s Oct. 22 agenda.
“That’s what we’re shooting for,” said Malone. “We want to act on this because the people who want to apply for the cards need to gather a lot of documents before the new year. They need to be ready.”
Another issue that surfaced during the hearing was who is going to translate the birth certificates, matricula consular cards and passports required to obtain the driver authorization cards.
Several professional translators and certified court interpreters asked the DMV to make sure that it be done by professional translators while others disagreed, saying bilingual family members could just as easily translate the documents, given that they were merely dates of births and the towns they come from.
The two groups have been squaring off since the law was signed in late spring. Translators say “a third party” is necessary to steer clear of “partiality” and to meet translation standards. Opponents say such a requirement would expose the application process to fraud, allowing anybody to charge whatever they want for translations — something that often occurs among residency or U.S. citizenship applications.
Jude Hurin, DMV services manager in Carson City, said the DMV will have a list of translators on the DMV website by early next week, if not by the end of this week. But Hurin pointed out that it was up to the applicants to “shop around” for the appropriate translators.
He said it wasn’t within the purview of DMV to regulate the translations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Tom Ragan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512.