On September 12, 2013, with a vote of 50 to 25, California state Legislature voted to approve bill AB60, which would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue an original driver’s license to a person who is (1) unable to submit satisfactory proof that the applicant’s presence in the United States is authorized under federal law, if he or she meets all other qualifications for licensure, and (2) provides satisfactory proof to the Department of his or her identity and California residency. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign the measure, which will overturn a two-decade-old ban against issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants who were unable to present a valid social security number (excluding certain people who qualified for federal work permits under DACA). This measure has largely been touted as a public safety reform that would permit immigrants to drive lawfully when required to obtain necessary services, obtain auto insurance, and pass a safety exam that requires knowledge of California driving laws.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will be tasked with deciding what testing and other requirements undocumented applicants will need to provide in order to receive a driver’s license. The applicant will be required to sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury stating that he or she is both ineligible for a Social Security number, and unable to submit satisfactory proof of lawful presence in the U.S. This privilege will not extend to commercial licenses, which will still require proof of a valid Social Security number. These changes would become operative on January 1, 2015 unless a department declaration is executed sooner.
AB 60 will require that a special mark be placed on these licenses, such as the initials “DP” (driver’s privilege) instead of “DL” (driver’s license). A notation would also be included stating that the document does not establish eligibility for employment or public benefits. These mandated notations sparked controversy that law enforcement and employers who ask to see the document could instantly be alerted about a person’s unlawful status and use that as a basis to discriminate against the document holder. However, the bill would prohibit the use of this information to consider an individual’s citizenship or immigration status as a basis for a criminal investigation, arrest, or detention. How this will actually play out in practice remains to be seen.
AB60 provides that information collected pursuant to those provisions is not a public record and shall not be disclosed by the Department, except as required by law. It would also make it a violation of law to discriminate against an individual because he or she holds or presents a license issued under these provisions. Finally, AB60 requires that the Administrative Office of the Courts compile and submit a periodic report that, among other things, would track instances of when these licenses are used to discriminate against an individual.
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