Over One Million Illegal Immigrants Now Have Driver's Licenses in California

Many people across the nation are watching immigration issues closely. Understandably, this is because of an increased interest in immigration issues at the highest levels of government. However, many people tend to only see the large issues involving illegal immigrants. It can be tempting to gloss over pockets of various immigrant issues and programs. For example, few people know about California's driver's license program for illegal immigrants.

Just over three years ago, California began a program that granted driver's licenses to immigrants who were here illegally. On April 4th, 2018, the California Department of Motor Vehicles announced that over one million driver's licenses had now been issues to illegal immigrants. The department hailed the number as a major milestone.

The program was started by Assembly Bill 60. The bill allowed anyone to get a driver's license in California who could prove their identity, their residency in California, and pass all testing requirements for a license. As long as the previous requirements were met, the issue of being in the country illegally became irrelevant. The licenses are renewable after five years.

At first blush, the law seems to be unfair at best. Many people wonder how a state can grant legal privileges to a person who is not even a citizen. Supporters of the law say the answer can be found in traffic safety. Supporters say the law takes unsafe drivers off of the road by forcing everyone to take a driver's test. In other words, arresting an illegal immigrant driving without a license becomes a higher priority than arresting an illegal immigrant with a license. It is understood the one who either cannot pass or refuses to take a driver's test is a greater danger to the community.

It took a decade of fierce debate for the licenses to come into existence. Also, the licenses explicitly state they do not grant any federal benefits, and it also states, "This license is issued only as a license to drive a motor vehicle. It does not establish eligibility for employment, voter registration, or public benefits."

Interestingly, illegal immigrants had been able to obtain driver's licenses in many places in the country until 1993. It was then that many states, including California and 46 other states, decided to explicitly ban the practice. Now, it seems like it is making a comeback.

What do you think about the licenses? Are they fair? Let us know below!


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