Immigrant status had never been an issue in the granting of drivers’ licenses in California. People who were undocumented nevertheless could be legal on the road if they passed the written and driving requirements, and they could get to work, drive their children to school, and run everyday errands without fear of being pulled over.
Then, amid an unprecedented anti-immigrant campaign, the state legislature in 1993 banned granting drivers’ licenses to persons without status. The ban went into effect the following year, and undocumented residents found themselves without access to a crucial resource: transportation.
Undocumented residents were left without any other option but to go on with their daily lives and drive without a license. Over the past two decades, the ban resulted in an unfair amount of tickets, vehicle impoundments, arrests, and even deportations in our community.
For those and many other reasons, CARECEN and its allies spent more than 20 years organizing and fighting to restore access to licenses. The result of this work was the passage of Assembly Bill 60, The Safe and Responsible Driver Act (AB 60) in 2013.
Under this new law, any eligible California resident can apply for a driver’s license, regardless of immigration status, starting January 1, 2015.
AB 60 licenses have a visible distinguishing feature and cannot be used for certain federal purposes, such as to enter restricted areas of federal facilities or to board planes. However, they do make it possible for people to drive legally and to identify themselves to police officers.
CARECEN and its allies are still working with legislators to enact further privacy protections for those who apply for drivers’ licenses, and it is conducting forums and study sessions to improve immigrants’ chances of passing the driver tests. If you are interested in joining this effort, sign up! We welcome everyone’s help.