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|10/4: California gives immigrants driver's licenses
Released 02 October 2013  By Amy Taxin - The Associated Press
California gives immigrants driver's licenses
By Amy Taxin of The Associated Press
Friday, October 4, 2013 - 8:33 am
LOS ANGELES — California on Thursday joined the growing list of states
that allow immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to obtain driver's
licenses — a measure supported not only by Latino activists but by police
chiefs and insurance authorities.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill in front of a cheering crowd
of immigrants and their supporters, predicting other parts of the country
will follow the example set by the nation's most populous state.
The licenses, which are expected to become available no later than January
2015, will carry a special designation on the front and a notice stating
that the document is not official federal identification and cannot be
used to prove eligibility for employment or public benefits.
"This is only the first step," Brown said outside City Hall in Los
Angeles. "When a million people without their documents drive legally and
with respect in the state of California, the rest of this country will
have to stand up and take notice. No longer are undocumented people in the
Ten other states have enacted measures to give driver's licenses to
immigrants in the country illegally, many of them in the past year,
according to the National Immigration Law Center.
Some of those states issue only one kind of license. But laws in many
states, including Oregon and Colorado, create distinctions between the
license given to immigrants and the one issued to other drivers.
Some immigrant advocates initially raised concerns that a different
license in California would contribute to racial profiling. The new law
bans discrimination based on the license and states that the license
cannot be used as a basis for arresting someone for being in the U.S.
State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he believes the
marker is insignificant in relation to what the license will do for
"Those distinctions mean little to hard-working people who simply want to
drive to work or drive their kids to school or soccer practice without
fear," he said.
State officials estimate 1.4 million drivers will apply for licenses under
the law during the first three years. The measure, written by Democratic
Assemblyman Luis Alejo, will grant licenses to anyone who passes the
written and road tests, regardless of immigration status.
State and local officials touted the importance of getting immigrants
properly trained and tested so that they know how to drive and are
familiar with the rules of the road in California.
"That's what this bill is about, making the streets of this state safer,"
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. The bill had the backing of
the state's Police Chiefs Association and insurance authorities.
It isn't clear whether entities such as local government offices,
libraries or banks will accept the license as identification.
Over the past two decades, immigrant advocates have pushed to get licenses
in California. The effort took on more urgency in recent years as
immigrants caught driving without a license began seeing their cars
impounded and wound up being screened by federal immigration authorities
Former state lawmaker and current Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo
said he introduced the license bill 11 times over 15 years, but the
measure failed to get enough votes or was vetoed or repealed.
Cedillo said the license will bear a marker to comply with a federal
identification law enacted after the 2001 terrorist attacks but that won't
impede immigrants desperate to drive legally from applying for it.
In the Legislature, opponents of the bill said granting a license with
special markings would put employers and landlords in a conflict between
complying with state and federal laws.
The bill is one of several immigrant-friendly measures passed by the
Legislature this year, including overtime pay for domestic workers and an
effort to scale back collaboration between local law enforcement and
federal immigration officials.
Brown has enjoyed strong support among Latino voters, whose numbers are
growing in California. On the steps of City Hall, scores of immigrant
rights activists chanted "champion" in Spanish at the mention of his name.
He urged lawmakers to move forward on more sweeping immigration reform on
Capitol Hill, where an overhaul has stalled.
Ismael Salvador, a 63-year-old factory worker from El Salvador, turned out
to see the bill-signing. He said the change will radically alter the lives
of his two daughters, who are in the country illegally.
One risks driving every morning to her job as a lunch truck cook, and the
other cleans houses and relies on rides because she is afraid to get
behind the wheel, he said.
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