California OKs Giving Driver’s Licenses to Illegal Immigrants

CBS News, October 3, 2013

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Thursday adding California to the growing list of statesĀ allowing immigrants living in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses.

{snip} The licenses would carry a distinction on the front of the card that states the document may be used for driving, not as federal identification.

Several immigrant advocates initially raised concerns that the marker will contribute to racial profiling. The bill includes protections against discrimination.

Brown predicted that California’s endorsement of driver’s licenses for immigrants will mean more states will follow.

“This is only the first step,” he told a cheering crowd at the signing ceremony 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 shadows.”

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Over the last two decades, immigrant advocates have pushed to get licenses restored in California. The effort took on added significance in recent years as immigrants caught driving without a license began seeing their cars impounded and wound up being screened by federal immigration authorities for deportation.

Most states don’t allow immigrants in the country illegally to obtain licenses. But a growing number, including Colorado and Oregon, have passed similar measures to issue marked licenses for driving purposes only.

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State officials estimate 1.4 million drivers will apply for licenses under the law, which was supported by the state’s Police Chiefs Association and insurance authorities.

It isn’t clear whether entities like local government offices, libraries or banks will accept the license as a form of identification. {snip}

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Brown has enjoyed strong support among Latino voters, whose numbers are growing in California, and appears to sense how the broader public has become more welcoming toward immigrants even as the debate over an immigration overhaul has stalled in Congress, said Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at California State University, Los Angeles.

On the steps of City Hall, scores of immigrant rights activists and state and local officials chanted “champion” in Spanish at the mention of his name. In his speech, Brown urged lawmakers in Washington to move forward on more sweeping immigration reform.

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