Driver-privilege cards will be available Jan. 1 | NevadaAppeal.com
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Driver-privilege cards will be available Jan. 1

In a ceremony attended by every Hispanic member of the Legislature and more than two dozen activists, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill creating cards that allow undocumented immigrants to drive legally in Nevada.

He and Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said SB303 is more about safety than immigration. With the driver-privilege cards, they said, undocumented residents will have taken the proper driving tests and be insured, making them much safer on the roads.

Asked whether the measure constitutes de facto amnesty, Denis said, “I would say these people are already driving, so this is going to make the roads safer.”

The bill is a long time in the making and took a bipartisan effort by leadership in both houses of the Legislature, Sandoval said. Denis said that eight years ago, when he began pushing for driving privileges for undocumented residents, he couldn’t get a hearing in the Legislature.

Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, said the bill would not have happened without all sides working together.

“This provides access to the roads for many people who may not have it,” he said. “This is not only a historic day but probably the most important legislation this session (for Latinos).”

Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, said many people thought early in the session the bill wouldn’t be passed.

It did, he said, because of “grassroots organization.”

“Public pressure like that makes things like this happen,” Roberson said.

Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said the signing is historic “not only for the Latino community but the people of Nevada.”

“This has to take place in this country, the taking of small steps toward comprehensive immigration reform,” he said to applause from the audience in the Capitol’s Old Assembly Chambers.

The Department of Motor Vehicles will begin offering the driver-privilege cards Jan. 1, Sandoval said.

The language in SB303 is constructed to ensure that the cards can’t be used for any other purposes, such as registering to vote or obtaining welfare and other benefits.

It also includes language prohibiting the DMV from releasing information about cardholders — including to federal immigration officials.