State Expands Rights of Non-Citizens

bus-riders
relieved / Leonor Rodriguez has no choice but to ride the bus because she is not eligible to apply for a driver’s license in California. That could all change if Gov. Jerry Brown signs AB 60 into law. The Senate passed it, 55-19. / Liz Monroy / el Don
Leonor Rodriguez has no choice but to ride the bus because she is not eligible to apply for a driver’s license in California. That could all change if Gov. Jerry Brown signs AB 60 into law. The Senate passed it, 55-19. / Liz Monroy / el Don

By: Alex Olivares

California’s state legislature passed a bill that if signed into law would allow those living in the U.S. without legal immigrant status to receive driver’s licenses with a watermark that limits the purpose of the IDs.

AB 60 is expected to become law after it cleared the state Senate, 55-19. It awaits the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown, who has endorsed the policy change.

“This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally,” Brown said.

Pro-immigration lobbyists do not view it as a watershed victory.

The disclaimer stating that these licenses are for driving privileges only might lead to additional penalties because of the holder’s status, immigration activists said. Still, they are calling it a landmark that improves upon the status quo.

There were originally no protections for those that held these marked licenses from being put into deportation proceedings, said Hairo Cortes of the Orange County Dream Team.

Applicants were required to reveal their immigration status when applying at the DMV. Authorities could have placed applicants under custody in order to run background scans, Cortes said.

The question of privacy that could carry the risk of exposure and potential deportation with a card that will have the holder’s non-legal status have since been addressed.

The bill’s author, Rep. Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), inserted amendments protecting the license bearer from discrimination and assured activist groups like the OCDT that the designation will be small and discreet.

“But with all of those protections we are comfortable enough with the bill as it is written,” Cortes added.

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As the bill stands, it has the potential to help millions of immigrants in the state, Cortes said.

Scores of Santa Ana College students wait in long lines on a typical weekday outside the Bristol Street bus stop.

“I could drive around and be able to not depend so much on the bus,” Santa Ana College student Alberto Don Juan said.

Without the privilege to drive, Don Juan waits as long as 30 minutes for his scheduled buses to arrive. His waiting periods can add up to hours each day, he said.

This is not the first time the bill has been brought up in California.

Former Gov. Gray Davis signed a similar bill in 2003, but it was repealed after his recall. Attempts to resuscitate the bill were vetoed by his replacement, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

If signed into law, California would join 10 other states and Washington D.C. in granting legal driving privileges to those without papers.

 

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