More than a 100 people showed up at a bilingual community forum on Thursday to get information on Nevada’s new driver authorization card intended for those who are in the country illegally.
The card has proven so controversial that three armed Las Vegas marshals were at the event, held at the East Las Vegas Community Center, as a precaution. Vitriolic comments about the cards have circulated online since Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the bill last week.
The message from lawmakers who helped pass the law was this: The same rules for obtaining a driver’s license apply to getting the driver’s card, with the exception of required forms of documentation, according to Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis and Sen. Ruben Kihuen. Both Las Vegas Democrats were key in Senate Bill 303’s success.
Because the majority of the estimated 66,000 people expected to apply for the card were born in foreign countries, the state Department of Motor Vehicles will be asking for original or notarized copies of birth certificates and other forms of valid identification, such as a passport, a driver’s license from another state or a consular identification card, which is often distributed by consulates in the United States.
The anticipated demand for the birth certificates already has the Mexican Consulate in Las Vegas working closely with at least six states in Mexico.
Other forms of identification that the state will accept are two proofs of residency, such as a utility bill, a bank statement, a paycheck stub with an address, a medical bill or an insurance document.
The forum, which lasted about two hours, started with a brief explanation to the mostly Latino crowd on how historic the bill is. State and local officials also attempted to assuage fears that the information would be used against applicants by the federal government or law enforcement.
“There is a provision in the bill that prohibits ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or anybody else from using it against you or tapping into the state’s database,” Kihuen said. “We want to make it clear that this is not the intent of the bill. It’s not about immigration. It’s about safety.”
Another misconception addressed at the meeting was that car insurance is required to apply for the card. That’s not true.
As Kevin Malone, a public information officer for the state’s DMV, pointed out: “You need insurance to register your vehicle.”
But issuing driver cards is expected to prompt an increase in the purchase of insurance. Officials say when the law goes into effect on Jan. 15, 18 new positions will be added to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, 14 of them in Southern Nevada.
Driver cards are also expected to raise $1.4 million in revenue, offsetting the $739,110 cost of running the program in 2014.
Applicants will have to pay $22 for the card and $25 for processing fees.
At the end of the meeting, a few cautionary pieces of advice were offered: Although the written portion of the driver’s exam will be available in Spanish, applicants will need to know enough English to understand a driving instructor when it comes time for the road test.
Another warning: Those who use fraudulent identification to apply for the driver’s card will be prosecuted.
Denis called the bill’s passage “really positive.”
“It’s something that the Latino community has wanted for quite some time,” said Denis, who, with Kihuen, has been trying to get such a bill approved for nearly a decade .
He added, “The problem was we just didn’t have the support in the Legislature, nor the political environment, but then things lined up right this time.
Contact reporter Tom Ragan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512.