Undocumented immigrants on pathway to obtaining driver’s licenses

Undocumented immigrants on pathway to obtaining driver’s licenses
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — California may soon become the 11th state to allow a new group of people to legally join our roadways — undocumented immigrants.

On its final day of legislation state assembly passed AB 60, which would allow undocumented immigrants to legally apply for a driver’s license.

Before 1993, citizenship was not a requirement to hold a license to drive. Now, 20 years later, that may be the case once again.

"These people are hardworking, they have families that need to be taken care of, they go to school. People have lives, and the fact that they may not have papers should not deny them the right to a livelihood,” said Cal State Bakersfield professor Gonzalo Santos, who is an active advocate for immigration reform in the state.

Professor Santos says he was proud to see state legislature pass the bill, which would allow some 2 million undocumented people in the state to apply for a driver's license. The bill is now on the governor's desk, who has openly expressed his support of licensed undocumented immigrants.

"And within seconds Governor Jerry Brown immediately sent a tweet that he would sign it," said Professor Santos.

Daniel Contrera is an undocumented immigrant living in Kern County. He says he hopes to one day legally obtain a driver's license.

Rosendo Vera is also an undocumented immigrant living in the county. Thursday he said, “Let's think of the future: you can get your license, get your insurance and most importantly: drive legally."

State assembly approved the bill on a 55-19 vote. The senate passed it 28-8.

Republican senator Jean Fuller voted against the bill and released this statement Thursday: “I agree with many who say that the bill could ensure that those driving on our roads are safer, and insured. And I believe we desperately need for the federal government to come up with an overall immigration solution. But as a state, we cannot continue to provide further incentives for people to come to this country illegally. That is not an immigration solution."

Republican Sen. Andy Vidak voted in favor of the bill -- citing the new licenses will be marked, to indicate the holder is undocumented.

Vidak said, "On the front of it, it's gonna have two different letters than we currently have for our citizens—but, they'll be able to drive. It's gonna be better for our communities, it'll be better for the families-- they aren't gonna have impounded cars."

The marked licenses can't be used to vote and the holder will still be ineligible for social services.

Supporters of the bill say the biggest concern should be safety—as the licenses would provide a means for all people on the road to safely learn and be tested on the rules of the road.

If signed, as expected, the licenses are set to be available January 2015.