Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants Approved by Legislature
California would become the latest state to grant immigrants who are in the country illegally the right to a driver’s license under a bill that passed the Legislature and that Gov. Jerry Brown supports.
The success of the legislation in the state with the nation’s largest immigrant population comes after years of setbacks for Democratic lawmakers and Latino activists.
The state Assembly approved the bill on a 55-19 vote late in the evening, hours after the Senate passed it on a 28-8 vote. The Democratic governor issued a statement indicating he would sign it into law, which would make California the 11th state to allow immigrants to apply for licenses, according to the bill’s author.
“This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally,” Brown said in his statement, issued immediately after the Assembly vote. “Hopefully, it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due.”
The approval on the final day of this year’s legislative session was a surprise.
The author of AB60, Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo of Watsonville, was prepared to put his legislation on hold until next year because of opposition from immigrant-right groups. They had objected to a provision that calls for the licenses to be given a special designation, fearing the different look could lead to discrimination.
The legislation was revived after lawmakers persuaded some of the activists to drop their objections.
Alejo was elated as he presented the bill on the Assembly floor.
“This is a very historic night for all immigrant communities,” he said, as a crowd of Latino senators and Assembly members gathered behind him. They hugged and cheered when the measure sailed through on the final vote.
Several other attempts had passed the Legislature only to be vetoed by previous governors. Alejo said the author of most of those, former state lawmaker Gil Cedillo, had asked him to continue pushing the issue.
The bill could allow some 2 million people in California to drive legally by allowing immigrants with proper identification to apply for a license.