In 1997, then California Assemblymember and current LA City Councilmember Gil Cedillo proposed a driver license bill, which sought to grant undocumented immigrants the privilege to drive lawfully in California. In 2003, then Governor Gray Davis signed this bill into law, only to have it repealed once he was recalled.
Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) picked up the torch as the primary sponsor of the current drivers license bill, known as AB 60. A year ago, in October of 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law, which the Department of Motor Vehicles is set to implement starting January 1, 2015. Already, the DMV's appointment portal is open, ready to benefit 2 million undocumented immigrants who may be interested in obtaining a license so they can drive in California lawfully.
To inform local immigrants about this new opportunity, the ACLU-SoCal Pasadena-Foothills Chapter and other Pasadena-area community organizations organized an informational forum at Villa Parke Community Center last night. ACLU Chapter members Yuny Parada and Joanna Amador spearheaded the event, supported by ACLU-SoCal staff member Miguel Cruz.
Event attendance greatly exceeded expectations. More than 200 area residents crowded into the assembly room. Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez and Pasadena Councilmember Victor Gordo were on hand to welcome the community and encourage the residents of the area to take advantage of this long-awaited opportunity.
Representatives from the DMV, California Department of Insurance, and Mexican Consulate were at hand to answer questions and inform the public about steps needed to comply with the new law. Immigration attorney Andres Bustamante fielded questions about immigration law and application of AB 60.
Immigrants can only use the driver’s license to drive legally in California. The license will not be valid for identification purposes or to prove resident status. AB 60 prohibits law enforcement agencies from using the driver license in a discriminatory way. DMV representatives explained that their privacy and information sharing policies have not changed. Outside agencies will need a valid court-issued search warrant for a specific record.
The speakers emphasized studying the information to take the written and "Signs of the Road" tests. According to DMV representatives, all exams have been revised to make them more understandable, including the English exam. The Mexican Consulate announced that it is providing classes to teach the community the basic knowledge needed to pass the written driver’s exam.
Most attendees were concerned about the documentation needed to verify their identities. Many had obtained a “Matricula Consular,” a document issued by the Mexican consulate to nationals living outside of their home country. The Mexican Consul also provided details about documents deemed acceptable by the DMV for Mexican nationals.
A passport from the undocumented immigrant’s home country will also be an acceptable form of identification. The DMV will also require proof of residency in California. Other forms of acceptable identification can be found on the DMV’s website.
Agency representatives and organizers stayed afterwards to answer attendee question. Organizers agreed that the attendees seem to have absorbed the information about the new law. If so, we can rest assured that the state's roads will be much safer with more drivers tested and lawfully licensed to drive in California.
Event co-sponsors included Pasadena Vice Mayor Jacque Robinson, Councilmembers Victor Gordo and John Kennedy, El Centro de Accion Social, Pasadena Latino Forum, All Saints Church, Pasadena en Español, LA Progressive, NDLON, and CHIRLA.
Joanna Amador and Yuny Parada