Inarguably, our undocumented residents are a vital part of this community’s local economy. Undocumented immigrants living in Colorado pay $139.5 million in state and local taxes, which fund services we all benefit from.
Immigrants help power major sectors of our economy, driving innovation, creating jobs and boosting economic growth. In our congressional district, immigrants make up over 12 percent of the tourism workforce, and that number is much higher in resort communities like Telluride.
Immigrants enrich our community in countless ways. But inadequate funding for some of our state’s policies continues to put up roadblocks that prevent Colorado from being the welcoming, inclusive state it should be, and hindering the safety of all Coloradoans.
Colorado legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses passed in 2013, but didn’t provide adequate funding. Although originally allowing undocumented immigrants to apply and obtain licenses from six DMV locations, that number has since dwindled, and could become just one, if funding to properly implement the program as intended is not provided. Increased funding would mean more qualified and insured drivers, safer roads, and lower insurance premiums for everyone.
Licenses are particularly important for workers in key agricultural areas, such as San Miguel County, where public transportation is not readily available. Our agriculture industry, which in 2014 alone contributed $2.8 billion to our state GDP, is heavily reliant on immigrant labor (35 percent). As a whole in 2014, our state’s immigrant workers also paid more than $3.9 billion in taxes and carry $12.1 billion in spending power. These contributions would only increase if access to licenses were expanded.
I hope our lawmakers in Denver vote on some much-needed changes that would benefit all Coloradoans this legislative session and provide adequate funding for this program. Telluride’s future may very well depend on it.
-Kody Gerkin, Community Outreach Manager
As featured in Telluride Daily Planet on February 8, 2019