By Alfredo Hernandez
Starting January 3, Assembly Bill 60 will allow undocumented residents to apply for driver’s licenses.
California will join nine other states in allowing undocumented workers to legally apply for driver’s licenses, reserving a stance California has held since early 1993.
Sponsored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), proponents see this bill as a necessary step in the improvement of public safety. It is certainly not without its opponents. Opponents of the bill see it as rewarding illegal immigrants that are currently breaking the law; permitting individuals to be contacted by law enforcement without the fear of deportation. These fears are quite unfounded, however.
To see the practicality of the bill, one must first understand what goes into it. Under AB 60, individuals applying for driver’s licenses must present at least one form of valid identification as outlined by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The form of identification must then be supplemented by one of the proofs of residency that the DMV has designated as acceptable. Once these two criteria have been fulfilled, the person must then complete the standard driver’s license process involving both the writing and driving tests and the required paperwork.
Licenses given under AB 60 will carry the phrase “for driving purposes only” preventing it from being used for the purposes of seeking work, boarding airplanes, etc.
Once again, the biggest opponents state that giving undocumented persons driver’s licenses is rewarding them for breaking the law. That would only be true if these licenses carried the full weight of a real license. The purpose of these licenses is to improve public safety. By making everyone take the same driving test, California is ensuring that all individuals on the road deserve to be on the road. Furthermore, by authorizing these driver’s licenses, undocumented individuals are now capable of purchasing driver’s insurance, further strengthening on-road safety and greatly reducing the number of hit-and-run accidents.
However, it is unclear to what extent law enforcement will be able to report individuals solely on these special licenses. AB 60 only designated that the DMV will be barred from reporting undocumented individuals. It does not stipulate whether or not law enforcement can report individuals with these licenses to immigration services. This matter will have to be seen as the months progress.
Giving undocumented individuals driver’s licenses is not amnesty. Giving undocumented workers driver’s licenses will not be handing them the right to work. Simply, all it would do is protect people on the road from unlearned and unprotected drivers. The effectiveness of this bill can only be judged in the following years, but as of now the DMV is full of new faces. Hopefully, now we can all drive a little easier without a cloud of worry over our heads.