LATINO VOICE-On Friday, January 2, 2015, thousands of undocumented residents in California could start the process of applying for a driver’s license.
This is the result of bill AB60, approved in 2013, which reflexes the spirit of California towards immigration and other social issues.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles estimates that 1.4 million drivers are unlicensed, many of whom are unable to receive a license because they are undocumented.
According to a DMV statement delivered to news media organizations, “Once properly licensed, these drivers will be able to purchase auto insurance, as required by law. It’s important to note that AB60 prohibits law enforcement agencies from using the driver’s license for criminal investigation, arrest, or detention based on immigration status.”
However, the design of this driver’s licenses will allow law enforcement officers to identify users as undocumented. Such design was supervised by the Department of Homeland Security. Those who qualify to apply for this document have to wait till next year, the DMV clarified.
Documents required to apply for a driver’s license while undocumented
A. One of the following documents:
-Mexican passport, emitted on or after 2008.
-“Matricula Consular,” 2006 or 2014 versions.
-Mexican Electoral ID (Credencial de Elector), 2013 version.
B. One proof of residence, like rental contract, energy or water bill, etc. For those nationals from other countries, requirements are similar.
The DMV is asking future applicants to check the list of approved documents before going to a local DMV office. To see the complete list in English, click here. For the list in Spanish, click here.
Safer roads and big relief
Safer roads is what people in California expect from the implementation of AB60, while insurance companies cross their fingers for more sales. But most importantly, it means a psychological change for those driving without a driver’s license because of their legal status.
“Fear… This what you feel driving without a driver’s license and you see a police officer,” said Brenda Ordaz, a resident of Madera, California. She is a Dreamer and applied to DACA, a presidential executive order that provide thousands of undocumented immigrants who arrived as children with a stay of deportation and with a social security number and other rights —including the possibility to apply for a driver’s license— but without granting residence. Ordaz, whose family works in agriculture, indicates that without a driver’s license “people prefer to stay at home rather than going out, particularly after certain hours.”
Having this document have other consequences too.
“In most jobs openings a driver’s license is required,” said Juan Santiago, a student at California State University, Fresno, also a DACA beneficiary. “And its a big relief to drive now.”
Not having a driver’s license resulted in thousands of car impoundments around the state.
Immigrants rights advocates constantly criticized police check points established on poor neighborhoods in which many immigrants lives. Many cities collected millions of dollars in fines as the result of car impoundments, and in many cases those fines were greater than the car’s values, resulting in lots of cars being abandoned by their owners in warehouses.
Restoring a relationship with the police department-Police Departments around California always talked about building a good relationship with the immigrant community. They considered such relationship crucial to keep the community safe and drug free —or at least less violent.
However, police cooperation with ICE, which resulted in millions of deportations, and the many police check points with car impoundments, made that relationship disappear.
“Under these circumstances, you don’t see a police officer as a friend…,” explained Ordaz. “The social relationship changed in this regard.”
While it isn’t clear if police departments could avoid cooperating with ICE in the near future, the possibility for thousands of undocumented immigrants to drive without fear could help to boost a good relationship with local law enforcement departments that once upon a time existed in California.