CA advances driver’s licenses for illegals

CA advances driver’s licenses for illegals

Jerry Brown, Prop. 1 adDespite incomplete approval from the federal government, California has begun forging ahead with driver’s licenses for immigrants who are illegally present in California.

A bill signed into law last year, Assembly Bill 60, was subject to additional requirements by the Department of Homeland Security. DHS officials were concerned the licenses failed to distinguish adequately between those who were present legally and those who were not.

California officials have adopted some of the changes demanded by DHS, but not others. Now, California’s old legislative framework, which permitted unlawful immigrants to apply for licenses had they immigrated as children, will be replaced by a broader, open regime that has the state Department of Motor Vehicles scrambling to meet the anticipated demand.

Years of preparation

Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB60 into law in October 2013. But it had been the focus of legislative attention in California for years.

The previous governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, vetoed a similar law. Since that time, a political movement spanning many states pursued driver’s licenses for unlawful immigrants. Washington, Oregon and New Mexico have adopted similar programs, with a total of 10 states embracing the legal gray area that results.

The political push at the state level developed out of the failure of Democrats to deliver a comprehensive federal immigration reform bill that would liberalize laws and give unlawful immigrants a more protected and official status. Brown, riding the wave, said he hoped AB60 represented just a “first step” for California that other states would be inspired to follow.

An unready bureaucracy

Although the development of the licenses has long been on the horizon, state officials faced with the task of implementing AB60 have not had a long time to prepare. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times reported, the DMV was considering opening “up to six temporary offices to handle the estimated 1.4 million immigrants who are expected to apply in the next three years.” Southern California Public Radio has now confirmed the DMV “has hired more than 400 people and plans to bring on another 500 by January.”

The “huge undertaking,” as spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez explained, has focused on four temporary sites, located in Granada Hills, Lompoc, San Jose and Stanton. All four locations have been locked in for a three-year span, with an option for renewal contingent on demand. According to Gonzalez, as many as 1,000 new DMV hires have been budgeted in by Brown.

Adding to the bureaucratic load, “DMV employees are also required to undergo a fresh round of diversity training to prepare for the immigrant applicants.”

Legal wrangling

The implementation of AB60 has been launched without every legal detail being squared away. As the Press-Enterprise reported, federal government requirements added to the process set forth in AB60 aimed to ensure the new licenses were not used — or usable — as identification at the airport and in other security situations.

“The new license includes a statement on the front that ‘Federal Limits Apply’ and on the back that ‘This card is not acceptable for official federal purposes,” according to the Press-Enterprise. “This license is issued only as a license to drive a motor vehicle. It does not establish eligibility for employment, voter registration, or public benefits.'”

Some federal requirements, however, have simply been ignored. The “unique design or color” demanded by regulators has apparently been bypassed by California officials. “DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez said the agency isn’t worried that Homeland Security will reject the design,” according to the Press-Enterprise.

Meanwhile, groups pushing to smooth the way for unlawful immigrants “believe that a license with a different color or design could lead to discrimination … causing many of them to not apply for the new license. … After DMV issued an initial set of guidelines indicating which forms of identification would be acceptable for obtaining a new license, immigration activists in the Inland area and elsewhere criticized the DMV’s preliminary requirements as too burdensome and, in some cases, costly.”

The requirements have duly been loosened, with as little as one piece of identification being considered to get a license.

Tags assigned to this article:
drivers' licensesimmigrationJames PoulosAB60

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