California Grants Driver's Licenses for Immigrants in State Illegally

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a landmark law Thursday granting driver's licenses to people who are in the country illegally, hailing the measure as an important expansion of immigrant rights and one that should serve as an example to other states.
October 4, 2013

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a landmark law Thursday granting driver's licenses to people who are in the country illegally, hailing the measure as an important expansion of immigrant rights and one that should serve as an example to other states.

"This is only the first step. When a million people without their documents drive legally with respect to the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice," Brown said outside Los Angeles City Hall, with Archbishop Jose Gomez and other dignitaries in attendance. "No longer are undocumented people in the shadows."

The licenses will bear distinguishing marks: The legislation recommends DP for driving privilege, rather than DL for driver's license.

The new law will set off a scramble at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which may open up to six temporary offices to handle the estimated 1.4 million immigrants who are expected to apply in the next three years.

Proponents say that with more licensed drivers, hit-and-run accidents will decrease and the percentage of drivers who are insured will increase.

Ten other states have passed similar laws — seven of them this year — as comprehensive immigration reform remains stalled at the federal level. In the three states that already grant such licenses, the effect is being debated.

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