Illegal Immigrants can get Driver’s Licenses under New California Law
Until recently, only legal citizens of the United States were able to receive a driver’s license. This meant there were people operating motor vehicles on the road without proper verification of their driving ability or identification. Recently, some states have begun legalizing driver’s licenses for illegal aliens in their states and on October 3, 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown joined this group.
The new California law is supported by those it affects directly, as well as law enforcement officials, Latino activists, and insurance authorities. Though it might seem counter-intuitive for those in the country illegally to seek out identification, having the ability to identify and track a person involved in an accident is essential for keeping the roads safe.
Licenses Denote Citizenship Status, Verify Driver was Tested at DMV
During the ceremony in which Governor Brown signed the law, he stated, “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 shadows.” The licenses are expected to be available by January 2015 and will feature a special designation and notice that the license does not constitute federal identification that would allow a person to qualify for employment or benefits.
Those supporting the law view it as only the first step in bringing illegal aliens out of the shadows. They expressed some concerns that the law does not go far enough and that the special notation on the licenses could lead to racial profiling.
Improving Safety on the Roads
Estimates show that about one and a half million drivers will apply for licenses in the first few years they are eligible. Receiving a license will require passing a written and road test, just as it does for the majority of legal citizens. Many believe the law is a matter of safety. If illegal aliens are eligible for and want a license, they must consent to evaluation to earn that license. This holds illegal immigrants to the same standards as other responsible drivers on the road. Drivers will need to become familiar with the laws of the road and demonstrate they can drive safely, improving road conditions for everyone.
The effort to get illegal immigrants licenses has been going on for approximately 20 years. Recently, the efforts were stepped up because immigrants caught driving without a license had hteir vehicles impounded and were often screened by immigration authorities and threatened with deportation. After nearly a dozen attempts to get the bill passed, it finally received enough votes and was not vetoed or repealed.
The bill is part of an aggressive measure to create more immigrant-friendly laws in California. In addition to licenses, bills have also been passed regarding overtime pay and cutting back on coordination between local law enforcement and immigration officials. Governor Brown used the public signing to make a plea to lawmakers to do what they can to create sweeping immigration reform on the state an federal levels.
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