California will soon permit undocumented immigrants to obtain a valid California driver's license, as the highly contested Assembly Bill 60 (AB 60) passed both the California Senate and Assembly and is currently awaiting the governor's signature.
While progress on immigration reform may have seemingly come to a halt in Congress, many California politicians are calling on Washington to get the ball rolling again.
"This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally," said Gov. Jerry Brown. "Hopefully, it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due."
The bill, sponsored by local politician Senator Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, passed with votes of 55-19 in the Assembly and 28-8 in the State Senate.
Canella has long been an advocate of comprehensive immigration reform.
"There is no questioning that our immigration system is broken. We must deal with immigration directly in a compassionate and practical manner," said Sen. Cannella earlier this year. "It is our role as elected leaders to change the status quo when things are not working. We need to act immediately if we want to keep the problems with illegal immigration from growing... I support the actions that are being taken and want California to be at the forefront of immigration reform."
If signed into law, AB 60 would allow the California Department of Motor Vehicles to establish what documentation would be required for illegal immigrants to obtain a state license. Once obtained, the licenses would be marked visibly stating that the card is for driving privileges only. The license would also include a notation stating that the card may not be used for official federal purposes, and "does not establish eligibility for employment or public benefit."
While the licenses may not be used for any other purpose than driving a vehicle, supporters of the bill such as Canella believe it will create a safer driving environment throughout the state.
According to the California DMV Licensing Operations Division, unlicensed driving is a major California safety problem with an estimated 1.4 million unlicensed and uninsured drivers on California roads. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has also found that one in five fatal crashes in the United States involve an unlicensed or invalidly licensed driver.
The bill was presented to Gov. Brown on Sept. 18 and is expected to soon be signed into law.