California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has recently been hit with a wave of new applicants thanks to AB 60, a recently-passed piece of legislature that will allow illegal immigrants living in California to test for and receive a state-issued, legally valid driver’s license, effective only in the state of California. The law has spurred undocumented immigrants across the state of California to gather at their local DMV for the chance to drive legally in this country for the first time after what could’ve been years of driving illegally. Terrified by the risk of being pulled over, but forced to drive to make money and survive in this country, immigrants are overjoyed by the chance to prove their competence on the road and finally be able to stop living in fear.
Unfortunately, it’s possible that fear is also responsible for what may have been a low turnout by some expectations. AB 60 California is the latest licensing program for immigrants, but many programs like this have been successfully launched across the United States, so let’s take a look at the first wave of enrollment by the numbers… (All statistic provided by the DMV and applicable to the first two weeks of the law’s effective period.)
– 113,000 undocumented immigrants have applied
– 109,700 of those applicants went on to take the written or driving test
– On day one, only 970 people were given driver’s licenses
– As of January 14th, 11,070 applicants had received their licenses
– It’s projected that, within three years, over 4 million undocumented immigrants will apply
– AB 60 licenses only have one small distinguishing factor
That factor is a small “federal limits apply” disclaimer stamped onto the front of the license. AB 60 requirements are just as stringent as the requirements for a legal resident’s license, but the license itself only applies within state lines. These cards will not allow undocumented immigrants to drive legally in other states, but if an illegal immigrant can prove their residency within the state of California and pass a standardized written test, along with a behind-the-wheel test of their technical driving skill, they can finally rest easy on the road knowing that, if they’re pulled over, they won’t immediately be punished.
AB 60 is part of a larger move to make life in California a bit easier for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the state, but it will also immediately make road safer, not only for immigrants, but for everyone on the road. By allowing immigrants to take the same standardized test as US citizens, we can hold them to the same standards of competence and responsibility on the road while incentivizing doing so with peace of mind and institutional acceptance, legitimizing their presence and allowing them to live their lives without the constant fear of a burned-out tail light landing them in jail.
How do you feel illegal immigrants living in California should be accommodated (if at all)? What do you think California should do next to help illegal immigrants make their way in the increasingly diverse state? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!