Colorado probes scam as demand for driver’s licenses by illegal immigrants outstrips predictions

By Valerie Richardson - The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2016

DENVER — The Colorado attorney general’s office announced Thursday that it has launched an investigation into a suspected black market in which scammers sell appointment times to illegal immigrants seeking driver’s licenses for up to $1,000.

State Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman said in a statement that the Division of Motor Vehicles reports “a number of people were hoarding appointment times and then selling those appointments at prices that range from $50 to as high as $1,000.”

The racket illustrates the overwhelming demand and unforeseen consequences facing states as more move to offer driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

In California, illegal immigrants received 605,000 driver’s licenses last year, or 43 percent of the 1.39 million licenses issued in the first year of the program. The demand far surpassed the state’s initial project that 1.4 million licenses would be issued in the first three years, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia now offer driver’s licenses to those in the country illegally. The licenses are distinct in appearance from those provided to citizens and residents, and cannot be used as valid federal identification.

Still, the program remains controversial in many states. In 2014, Oregon voters overturned by 67 to 33 percent a law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s license law passed by the state legislature in 2013.

Two months ago, a group of illegal immigrants sued, arguing that Measure 88 “arbitrarily” denied licenses to a “disfavored minority group.”

In Colorado, such licenses may only be obtained at three DMV offices, one each in Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction. The division schedules appointments out 90 days, meaning that applicants may wait months to obtain licenses.

“We’ve created an environment that is facilitating scams and rip-off artists,” Democratic state Sen. Pat Steadman, told the Denver Post.

Democrats have called for expanding the program to meet the greater-than-expected demand, while Republicans have held the line on additional funding. Opponents also accuse supporters of deliberately lowballing estimates during debate over the 2013 legislation on how many of Colorado’s roughly 150,000 illegal immigrants would apply for licenses.

The state legislature is expected to consider additional legislation to address the long waits in this year’s session.

Ms. Coffman
stressed that such appointment times are free and encouraged those who have paid for them to contact investigators.

“We need people who have been victimized to come forward so we can identify these unscrupulous individuals and businesses who are profiting from a free government service,” Ms. Coffman said. “Anyone engaged in this scam should cease their activity and immediately cancel any scheduled appointments they’ve reserved.”