California Governor Jerry Brown made a trip to Fresno today (Thursday) to sign a bill that gives undocumented immigrants the right to drive legally. He signed AB60 into law in front of a crowd of over 300 students, staff and immigration supporters at Fresno City College.
“We’re recognizing millions of people who have been in the shadows. They’ve picked our food, they’ve built our houses, they’ve waited on our tables,” Governor Jerry Brown says. “Well today they become legal drivers in California.”
Brown also held a similar event in Los Angeles. With the bill, California joins the ranks of a growing number of states giving undocumented immigrants driving privileges.
The Safe and Responsible Drivers Act was authored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo.
“Today it’s California, tomorrow it’s going to be many other states following California’s lead,” Alejo says. “AB60 is not only good for immigrants, but for everyone on the road.”
The licenses will look much like regular licenses, but will be labeled with DP, for driving privilege, instead of DL, for driver’s license.
For Fresno State Student Gelasio Rodriguez the timing of the bill becoming law is perfect.
“Once the deferred action program gets cut, eventually, I will be able to apply for a license if there is no reform by that time,” Rodriguez says. “It helps my family because the rest of my family is undocumented so now they can stop driving in fear.”
The card will be issued only as license to drive a motor vehicle and will not make undocumented immigrants eligible for employment, voting registration, or other public benefits. Applicants will still have to pass the same written and driving test every driver in the Golden State must take.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyers says the law will make the streets safer.
“The California Police Chief’s Association supported AB60, because we knew that it would allow for more licensed drivers on our roadway and we want to make sure the people we share our roadways with understand the driving rules of California and this legislation will allow for that,” Dyer says.
Brown used the occasion to call for federal immigration reform.
“The very fact that a million people who are undocumented are now recognized by the law of California – that sends a message to Congress,” Brown says.
The DMV estimates that around 1.4 million undocumented persons could apply for driver licenses over the next three years once the program is implemented. The department has until January of 2015 to develop a way to process the sheer volume of new applications expected.