Driver's Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants Finally Happening

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Photo by coolmikeol via Flickr

After decades of debate about the issue, Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign a bill that would allow nearly two million undocumented immigrants to get California driver's licenses.

Under current laws, some young, undocumented residents may obtain licenses if they qualify for temporary federal work permits, according to the L.A. Times.

"This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally," Brown said in a statement issued after the bill passed the State Assembly late last night with a vote of 55-19. "Hopefully, it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due." The bill had already passed the Senate in a vote of 28-8.

The bill, AB 60, as drafted by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) would have provided licenses to immigrants who could show that they pay taxes or otherwise work in the United States, according to the Times. But it was amended so that the Department of Motor Vehicles will determine what type of documentation would be required.

The licenses would be different than the regular ones: They'll be marked "DP" (driver's privilege) instead of "DL" (driver's license). They would also come with the message that they "do not establish eligibility for employment or public benefit."

"In a perfect world we would have no mark on our driver's license," said Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), Chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus. He added, in a statement forwarded by Los Angeles Senator Kevin de Leon's press secretary, "AB 60 is not perfect, but it moves our state in the right direction. The alternative to passing this bill is a status quo system that continues to penalize hardworking families with tickets, court fees and car impoundments. These families deserve better."

"Every day I hear from constituents who drive to work in fear of being pulled over and losing their car,"Norma Torres (D-Pomona). "These law abiding residents simply want a license that allows them to drive to work, pick up their kids from school and be productive members of our society. This is an important public safety issue, period."

Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) said, "It is in everyone's best interest to have properly trained and insured drivers on our streets."

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, (R-Hesperia), who voted against the bill, told CBS 2, "I don't support any legislation that makes it harder for business owners to do business in the state of California. This is the most confusing piece of legislation I've ever seen."

And one unnamed Southland driver was quoted by CBS as calling the bill "insane and stupid," and that "this kind of thing will lead to the downfall of the U.S."

Ten other states allow licensing of undocumented immigrant drivers, including: New Mexico, Utah, Washington, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, Maryland, Vermont, Colorado and Connecticut.

Related:
Drivers Licenses for Illegal Immigrants Could Make Roads Safer
Should California Issue Illegal Immigrants Driver's Licenses? Police Chief Charlie Beck Says Yes