SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — To get the driver’s licenses they’ve long sought, immigrants living in California illegally will have to do something many have long resisted: publicly identify themselves.
The driver’s license bill that the Legislature passed on its final day requires a distinction that will indicate if someone is in the country without proper documentation.
Like many immigrants, Albin Bandera said he’s willing to take the risk. The 28-year-old said he currently skateboards to his job as a waiter in Los Angeles.
“It’s just great because I can be mobile and able to transport myself from job to job, to school,” said Bandera, who came here from Mexico as a toddler. “The day it comes out, I am there, the first one in line.”
Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill despite expressing opposition in the past. The governor said at an event in San Francisco Friday that Washington’s “foot-dragging” on immigration reform helped convince him the move was necessary.
“I think they need a good push, and that’s what I think this driver’s license bill does,” Brown said. “It says California recognizes these human beings are very important to our communities, to our economy and hopefully the people in Washington will get the message.”
It’s one of several pro-immigrant pieces of legislation approved at the end of the session and would add California to the growing list of states that give driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally. Other measures aim to crack down on fraud by immigration lawyers and consultants, ensure overtime pay for domestic workers, and scale back cooperation between police and federal immigration authorities.
In California, the bill authored by Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo would grant licenses to anyone who passes written and road tests, regardless of immigration status. The licenses would carry a distinction on the front of the card, however, and state that they are to be used for driving and not as federal identification to board an airline flight.
It isn’t clear whether entities in California like local government offices, libraries or banks would accept the license as a form of identification, immigrant advocates said. Some worry the distinction will contribute to racial profiling and discrimination, but many immigrants are desperate to drive without fear of being ticketed, having their car impounded or being detained by police and potentially deported.
“What is most important to us is there be protection against law enforcement action or discrimination on the basis of the marker,” said Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which opposed a prior version of the bill. “It’s not perfect but obviously is much needed.”