LOS ANGELES (CN) - California Gov. Jerry Brown Jr. signed a bill that extends the legal right to drive on state roadways to millions of undocumented immigrants.
Sponsored by assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, AB 60 requires the California Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a driver's license "to undocumented persons who can prove identity and California residency and meet all other licensing requirements, such as passing the written and behind-the-wheel driving exams."
Gov. Brown modified the bill to meet federal Department of Homeland Security requirements. Undocumented residents will receive a license marked "DP," for driving privilege, to distinguish the cards from standard driver's licenses.
A notice on the cards will read: "This card 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."
Brown signed AB 60 on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall on Thursday and held another signing ceremony was held in Fresno.
"When a million people without their documents drive legally and with respect in the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice," Brown said in a statement. "No longer are undocumented people in the shadows. They are alive and well and respected in the state of California."
The governor's office reports that DMW and AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety studies show that unlicensed drivers are more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than validly licensed drivers. AB 60 will help improve highway safety by ensuring that more California drivers are properly trained and tested on the rules of the road.
AB 60 also prohibits discrimination against anyone on the basis of having one of the new licenses. The law also prohibits use of the license for criminal investigation, arrest or detention based on immigration status.
The bill is not without its critics, however. Tom Reopelle, with KNX 1070 in Los Angeles, reported that some say the bill "undermines federal immigration laws by making it practical to live in the United States illegally and could even pose a threat to national security."
Supporters stress that the new law will allow more people to drive safely and legally. Many of them joined Gov. Brown to celebrate the signing, including Archbishop Jose Gomez, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo, State Center Community College District Board of Trustees president Isabel Barreras, Assemblyman Alejo and Masumoto Family Farm president David Mas Masumoto.
AB 60 goes into effect no later than Jan. 1, 2015.
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