Boom in Driver’s Licenses Issued to Immigrants Here Ilegally

Tatiana Sanchez, Los Angeles Times, February 8, 2016

Judith Benitez had gone most of her adult life without knowing how to drive.

The 35-year-old woman from Mexico who is in the U.S. illegally would ask family members for rides to pick up her children from school. Trips to the grocery store or the doctor’s office were complicated.

That changed last year when Assembly Bill 60 was implemented, granting people in the country illegally the right to obtain driver’s licenses in California. {snip}

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An estimated 605,000 licenses were issued under the law last year, accounting for nearly half of all new licenses, according to the California DMV. Nearly 400,000 of the licenses were issued during the first six months.

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Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure into law in 2013, further establishing California as a national leader on immigrant rights. {snip}

Brown in August signed a trio of immigration-related measures, which included elimination of the word “alien” within California’s labor code to describe immigrants in the country illegally. The new laws also included allowing noncitizen high school students to serve as election poll workers and protecting immigrant minors in civil lawsuits.

Licenses granted under the law have “federal limits apply” printed on them, which means that unlike California law enforcement, law enforcement officers in other states and federal officials aren’t obligated to accept the licenses as a valid form of identification.

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California is among 12 states that now allow immigrants in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses, areas covering an estimated 37% of that population, according to an August report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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In the year before the California law was implemented, the DMV hired 1,000 temporary employees and opened four additional processing centers. It also extended hours of operation to include Saturdays.

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The DMV has since resumed regular office hours and only 200 temporary employees will remain by the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

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