The California Department of Motor Vehicles announced a major milestone this week when it released new figures on its special driver’s license program for immigrants. The program launched in 2015 with the passage of Assembly Bill 60, a new law which allows illegal immigrants to obtain a California driver’s license. According to the new data, over 1,001,000 people have obtained the special license as of March 30. These special immigrant licenses can be obtained by providing proof of California residency as well as another legal form of identification. What effect will this have on California transit?
Assembly Bill 60 was passed in response to the estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants who drive on California roads. The licenses only grant the ability to drive on California roads, and do not grant any citizenship or eligibility privileges. The back of the cards clearly state that the special license “is not acceptable for official federal purposes. This license is issued only as a license to drive a motor vehicle. It does not establish eligibility for employment, voter registration, or public benefits.”
While many hail Assembly Bill 60 as a major step in the direction of equality and safety, the bill is not without its critics. Proponents of Assembly Bill 60 argue that the special licenses will make California roads safer through requiring immigrants to take a state-mandated driving test. These individuals were already driving before the bill, it’s argued, so requiring applicants to take a driving test will help keep inexperienced or unsafe drivers off the road.
It’s also claimed these licenses will make hit-and-runs much less frequent because immigrants involved in accidents will be less likely to flee a scene out of fears of deportation. In fact, one study by Stanford University found that the incidence of hit-and-run accidents has gone down by 7% since the passage of Assembly Bill 60. Meanwhile, public transit use in California is also down now that over a million residents can now drive legally.