A bill allowing people in the country illegally to obtain driving privilege cards in Nevada was signed into law Friday by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who called it a historic moment.
When the cards become available on Jan. 1, Nevada will join four other states – Utah, New Mexico, Illinois and Washington – that provide a way for immigrants to legally drive and obtain insurance.
Sandoval, Nevada’s first Hispanic governor, signed SB303 while surrounded by legislative leaders and others who have championed the bill.
He called it a bipartisan effort and praised Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis and other leaders for shepherding the bill through the Legislature.
“It’s going to provide for safer roads,” Sandoval said of the bill, calling it one of the most meaningful pieces of legislation he has enacted.
It came in a state that has seen the number of Hispanic residents soar in recent decades and become a political force, accounting for about a quarter of the state’s population.
Denis, the cousin of Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, fought to control his tears during the signing ceremony in the old Assembly chambers in the Nevada Capitol.
“This is truly a historic moment for our state,” said Denis, who has been working on the bill for years.
Sen. Ruben Kihuen, a Las Vegas Democrat who was born in Mexico and grew up in southern Nevada, had equal praise for Sandoval.
“If you had not agreed to sign it, we would not be here today,” he said.
Sen. Michael Roberson, the Republican minority leader, called the bill a “monumental piece of legislation” and hailed the bipartisanship and grassroots effort that made it happen.
Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said the signing signifies “taking the small steps for comprehensive immigration reform.”
Backers of the bill say it will make Nevada’s roadways safer because applicants must take a driving test and carry vehicle insurance.
Nevada’s bill is modeled after a similar law in Utah, which last year issued 36,000 driving privilege cards.
Applicants must provide proof of their identity, such as a passport or birth certificate, as well as Nevada residency.
Cards must be renewed annually and cannot be used as official identification to board a commercial aircraft, enter a federal government building or register to vote.
The bill also prohibits the Department of Motor Vehicles from releasing information about a person’s immigration status.
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