Calif. Governor Signs In Illegal Immigrant Drivers License Bill

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Oct 1, 2012

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California Governor Jerry Brown has officially signed into law a bill that will allow illegal immigrants to obtain a state-issued driver’s license. Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D) drafted AB2189 because he says the bill will make for safer roads, more insured drivers, and a means for young immigrants to get to school and work.

Under the new law, the CA Department of Motor Vehicles will be authorized to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants who have been given temporary legal status from the federal government under the newly implemented Deferred Action plan.

What Is the Deferred Action Plan?

A Deferred Action status allows participants to stay and work in the U.S. for two years without fear of deportation. Under AB2189, during this time of temporary legal status, young immigrants in California can become trained drivers and take steps to become insured on the road.

In order to be eligible for Deferred Action, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, an immigrant must, among other requirements:

  • Be between 15 and 31 years of age;
  • Have entered the U.S. before the age of 16;
  • Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007;
  • Currently be enrolled in school, have graduated, obtained a high school certificate of completion or GED certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  • Not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

In order to show they meet these requirements, an illegal immigrant must submit a mountain of documents of proof: of age, of current status, of continual residence, and that they entered the country within the specified timeframe; as well as transcripts, utility bills, report cards, tax receipts, finger prints, and more. The process is neither quick nor easy and is directed toward immigrant children who have an already-established investment, through family, school and community, in staying in the United States and eventually obtaining citizenship.

For more information on immigration citizenship processes, click here.

Critics vs. Supporters

While many support the California bill that passed on Sunday, the state and the country are torn on issues of immigration. Some believe states should not have the power to initiate laws dealing with immigrant status, while others feel that states should be able to implement their own (often more stringent) provisions without interference from federal courts. Such was the case in June, 2012, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold only one element of Arizona’s immigration law and strike down the rest of the bill sparked controversy. The law would have allowed police to initiate action and request documentation from anyone merely suspected of being an illegal immigrant in Arizona. Many view Arizona and California as being at polarized ends of the immigration law spectrum.

Supporters of the new California law tend to agree with Assemblyman Cedillo when he said, “It is a victory for those who were brought here through no choice of their own, played by the rules, and are only asking to be included in and contribute to American society,” according to the Associated Press.

The following news video was published before AB2189 was signed into legislation:

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