Attorney David Chesley's Criminal Defense Blog

Undocumented Immigrants in California Will be Eligible to Receive a Driver’s License

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Luis Alejo and fellow lawmakers

Luis Alejo (left) being congratulated by fellow lawmakers on AB60

Joining nine other states and the District of Columbia, California is giving driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. An issues that has come up many times in recent years, California was among the first states to give driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants consideration.

Senator Gil Cedillo tried to pass a bill that would allow the undocumented to receive driver’s licenses many times. After eight different attempts since 1998, Cedillo had no luck.

Luis Alejo, the author of AB60 had a better reception when he brought up his bill to allow the undocumented to drive legally. It was quickly approved by the California senate by votes 28-8 and in the Assembly by votes 55-19.

The bill AB60 was pulled until next year by its author after issues arose about marking the driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants different than the standard driver’s license. However just before the legislature recessed for the year, the bill was amended to require any license issued under this bill to be marked with a message of both sides that reads: “This card is not acceptable for federal purposes; it is acceptable for driving privilege only. It does not establish eligibility for employment, voter registration, or public benefits.”

Governor Jerry Brown, who brought up the concern of markings on the licenses has indicated that he supports the bill and that he will sign it. On an email he sent to reporters brown stated that “This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally,” and that “Hopefully it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due.”

While AB60 is not perfect, it is moving California in the right direction. Undocumented immigrants are part of our society and there are many reasons (including social and financial reasons) why this bill makes sense.

Many people question the marking that will be put on these undocumented licenses. A big concern is that these marking will lead to discrimination, however many Latino organizations and groups supporting immigrant rights welcome the measure. Many are calling it “overdue.”

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