Late last night the California State Legislature signed California AB 60 which will allow over 2 million undocumented immigrants to obtain a valid California Drivers License….sort of. There appears to be an ongoing debate right now about whether California AB 60 will allow a drivers “license” or just a driving “privilege”. Either way, this is a huge change in immigration policy and a major step forward for those dealing with the challenges of living in California as an undocumented immigrant.
Proponents of California AB 60 and those of immigration reform in general have long argued that granting a drivers license to undocumented immigrants will create additional revenue for the State of California by allowing the DMV to tax and regulate undocumented drivers. Proponents also argue that granting licenses will increase safety by requiring drivers to pass a written and behind the wheel test. This arguably leads to safer drivers. Hit and run collisions should be reduced as well as undocumented immigrants may flee after an accident in fear of arrest and deportation. Licensing or “privilege issuing” should also help weed out bad drivers through the use of California’s negligent operators system which suspends the license of anyone accumulating too many points from tickets or accidents. All of these problems should improve with the passage of California AB 60.
Those against immigration reform have been vehemently opposed to the passage of California AB 60 and have argued that granting a license to “illegal immigrants” is the equivalent of granting amnesty. These folks argue that we are rewarding bad behavior and that any benefits provided to undocumented immigrants unfairly punish those who went through the tedious process of legal immigration. Some anti immigration groups take this a step further by arguing that undocumented immigrants take the jobs of US Citizens and tax social services. Going further down the line to the right, the argument begins to rear its ugly head as protectionism and even racism. The debate over drivers license vs driving privilege appears to be an effort to appease these concerns. Some have reported that the new “driving privilege” will include a denotation on the card that the document “does not establish eligibility for employment or public benefits.”
Fortunately I’m a California traffic lawyer and not a politician, so I don’t have to pick a side in the debate over California AB 60. My focus is on helping people solve their traffic problems efficiently so let’s consider the practical implications of California AB 60. The reality is that the California DMV is about to experience a complete flood of new license applications. Anyone who has been to the California DMV should be well aware that lines can rival Disneyland on a bad day. Be prepared for the DMV to become even more inefficient.
To the 2 million undocumented immigrants in California, welcome to the joy of the California DMV. Be prepared to stand in line for a few hours only to find out that even though the law has changed and you are now eligible for a license, getting one will not be fast or easy. A good chunk of the lucky 2 million are about to find out that even though they have never had a license before, their license is currently suspended, and they aren’t eligible to obtain one until the suspension is cleared. That’s right, even if you have never had a license to begin with, you may have a suspended license. This is because the DMV takes actions against your “privilege to drive”, not against a physical drivers license. The license itself or whatever they end up calling this thing is just a card in your wallet.
If you apply for a license or driving privilege in California after the passage of California AB 60 and you are DENIED based on failures to appear on previous tickets under 40509.5, traffic warrants under 40508(a), failures to pay, or prior suspensions from DUI or other court orders give me a call at 800-797-8406 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can help you clean up the mess, and finally get that California Driver’s license in your pocket.