LAS VEGAS — After 21 years living without legal permission in Las Vegas, Barbara Silva said Wednesday that she’ll welcome the day in January when she can apply for a Nevada driver-authorization card.
“I’ve been so scared,” said Silva, a married mother of two from Veracruz, Mexico, who spoke briefly at a hearing about the state Department of Motor Vehicles program due to go into effect after Jan. 1.
She said afterward that she wants to legally drive to stores, to homes she cleans, to classes to earn her high school equivalency degree, and to pick up her kids.
“I want to make a contribution to this country,” she said.
State officials expect tens of thousands of people who don’t have legal U.S. residency to apply for the cards under the program approved this year by state lawmakers and signed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.
It makes Nevada one of several states, including neighboring Utah and California, with programs or plans to let people obtain similar cards.
Backers say the Nevada law will make roads safer because drivers who can’t currently get driver’s licenses will take a driving test, get insurance and drive legally. Program fees are expected to cover costs.
The hearing was held in Carson City with a closed-circuit TV connection to Las Vegas and Elko. A legislative panel is expected to finalize the DMV regulations Oct. 22.
Only Bruce Cram, the first of about 24 people who testified at the three sites, spoke against the program. He said it offered people “a privilege that’s totally undeserved for breaking our laws.”
Officials have said the DMV plans to accept a variety of documents to prove identity and residency. Costs will be $22.25, plus $25 for a driver’s test, and cards must be renewed annually.
An announcement that the department will accept documents that aren’t notarized drew praise from people who hope to keep application costs low. But it was criticized by certified court translators and several driving instructors who said they had hoped to offer their services for a fee.
Applicants can verify their identity with documents such as a passport, a birth certificate, military identification or a federal Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood.
Residency can be proved with at least two documents such as a driver’s license from another state, a consular identification card, rent or lease receipts, public utility bills, bank statements, educational records, credit card bills or employment check stubs, according to the DMV.
State Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, spoke during the hearing to say lawmakers wanted the measure to be “the least burdensome as possible for community members.”
However, Flores said she was worried by department plans to post a list of translators without reviewing or certifying their abilities. She said that could allow unscrupulous profiteers to prey upon applicants.
“We want to ensure that we get this right,” Flores said. “Especially in communities where English is not the first language, there are countless instances of people being taken advantage of.”
The proposed regulations call for foreign-language documents to be typed or printed in English and signed by a person proficient in both languages who attests that the translation is complete and accurate.
Family members wouldn’t be able to translate documents for relatives.
Some people who welcomed the program urged the DMV to design the cards to look like standard driver’s licenses.
The cards will have a one-year expiration date and say they can’t be used as official identification to board a commercial aircraft or enter a U.S. federal building.
Jose Macias, a 24-year-old self-described community activist, said those designations should be enough.
“Different markings could be used to single people out,” he said.