There’s a big change coming to California’s driving rules. Because of the passage of Assembly Bill 60, or AB 60, by January 1st of 2015, the Department of Motor Vehicles will make drivers’ licenses available to people regardless of their immigration status in the United States. The law is a reaction to the huge number of unlicensed drivers in California, many of whom are undocumented, and the public safety and insurance problems that creates for all motorists.
This has created a lot of logistical and public outreach work for the DMV. After all, those applying for a license must meet all the requirements of licensure and provide proof of identity and California residency. In addition, individual DMV offices, which can be frustrating on the best of days, have to be ready for a lot of new drivers coming in to take their tests and apply for a license.
Story and photos below:
The California Department of Motor Vehicles estimates there are between 1.4 to 2 million unlicensed and undocumented drivers behind the wheel in the state. The sheer quantity of them is what helped build political support for offering licenses to motorists regardless of their immigration status. “We already know they are driving. They are not going to stop. So at least this way, they are going to be able to do so safely,” says Lizette Mata, the DMV’s point person on offering licenses to the unlicensed. As people get licenses, it’s assumed they’ll be better drivers and get insurance. (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)
Undocumented California drivers will have to take the same tests and eye exams we all do before being issued a license. To prepare for what it expects will be an enormous wave of people applying for licenses come January 1st, the DMV is hiring a thousand more personnel and opening five temporary license processing centers. The total cost of the program in its first three years is $140 million. (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)
Unlike a conventional California driver license, the one issued to undocumented motorists will have distinguishing marks, most prominently “DP” will be stamped on it, standing for driving privilege. Some undocumented drivers and immigration rights activists have expressed concerns that motorists could be singled out for possible deportation or police harassment if stopped and asked to show the new license. Unrelated to the new law, some California cities, like Los Angeles, have special rules in place that prevent police asking about people’s immigration status. (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)
As part of outreach efforts to inform people about the driver license law, the DMV will hold participate in a variety of community meetings and town halls on the topic. This one we attended was held at Mexico’s consulate in Los Angeles. The room was packed and people had lots of questions about the implementation of AB 60. (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)