Initiative 52: Signature collection slow for undocumented-immigrants license proposal

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The backers of Initiative 52, which would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, have been collecting signatures for months. "It's going slow," says Homero, a volunteer. Thus far, they've gotten 15,000 signatures notarized and have hundreds of volunteers trying to collect 75,000 more by the August 6 deadline. To place Initiative 52 on the November ballot, they need 86,105 valid signatures.

"This is our first try," says Homero, who asked that we only use his first name. "We're doing our best." If it doesn't happen this year, he says, "we'll keep working until we get it."

Initiative 52 would allow undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses if they provide an individual tax identification number, last year's tax return and a form of government-issued ID from their country of origin. Supporters say there are several reasons why it's a good idea. For one, they say undocumented immigrants would be less likely to flee the scenes of traffic accidents, which sometimes results in the other driver having to foot the bill for the damage. Many undocumented immigrants fear getting a ticket for driving without a license -- an infraction that has been known to lead to possible deportation.

Plus, they say, it would be a boost to the economy because undocumented immigrants would have to pay license and registration fees at the DMV and buy car insurance.

Opponents say Initiative 52 is a back-door way to make undocumented immigrants legal, but backers insist that's not the case. A few other states, including Washington and New Mexico, offer full licenses to undocumented immigrants, while Utah issues licenses that can only be used for driving; they can't be used to purchase a gun, for example.

Back in May, supporters of Initiative 52 held a press conference to spread the word about the effort. At the time, they had collected about 6,700 signatures -- far short of their ultimate goal of 140,000. Though it doesn't look as though they'll hit that number, Homero is hopeful they'll collect enough to get on the ballot. Petitions are currently being circulated by hundreds of volunteers, and if they all come back filled with signatures, organizers believe 75,000 is within reach.

Homero can't collect signatures, though, because he's not a citizen. Non-citizens can't sign the petition, either.

"There are a lot of people supporting this," he says. "We've answered a lot of questions and raised a lot of debate." Even if they're not successful, he adds, "we are thankful."

More from our Immigration archive: "Immigration: Eldren's Josh Lee out of ICE custody but not in the clear."

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