By Miriam Raftery
October 3, 2013 (Sacramento )— Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed AB 60, making California the tenth state in the U.S. to grant undocumented immigrants the right to obtain driver’s licenses.
Studies done by the DMV and AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that unlicensed drivers were more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than validly-licensed drivers. Advocates believe that AB 60 will help make the roads safer by broadening the state’s effort to ensure that all California drivers are properly trained, tested, licensed and insured.
"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," said Governor Brown in a prepared statement. "No longer are undocumented people in the shadows. They are alive and well and respected in the state of California."
“It is in the best interest of all motorists, that individuals who the state determines are eligible to drive are trained, tested and insured, creating safer roads as a result,” State Farm Insurance representative Sevag Sarkassian said, the Daily Sundial reported. He added that having immigrants know the rules of the road should improve safety for all motorists.
The bill was opposed by most Republicans in the Legislature, who contended it will reward those who are in the U.S. illegally.
The measure is supposed by Latino groups, though some Latino advocates initially voiced concern that the IDs could lead to racial profiling.
To address that concern, AB 60 makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone on the basis of having the new license. The law also explicitly prohibits using the license for criminal investigation, arrest or detention based on immigration status.
Adoption of the measure comes after several failed attempts at similar legislation. Passage reflects a shift in public opinion as well as the growth in California’s Latino population, a potent political force. A Field Poll conducted in February found that 52% of registered voters said they favor making driver’s licenses available to undocumented immigrants, versus 43 percent who were opposed.
The push came after immigrants stopped for driving without a license in some areas had cars impounded and were screened by federal authorities for deportation.
The DMV will immediately begin the process of adopting regulations that will detail how applicants can prove identity and California residency. Generally, this process will involve public notice of draft regulations, a public comment period and a final decision by the Office of Administrative Law. The DMV will also propose a license design that complies with federal requirements for state driver licenses under the REAL ID Act of 2005.
For full text of the bill, visit: http://leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html.