SACRAMENTO, Calif. – More immigrants living in the U.S. illegally would be able to obtain a California driver's license under a bill that is moving through the state Legislature.
A measure from Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo, of Watsonville, would allow people without a Social Security number to apply for a license. They must show several alternative forms of identification, including a birth certificate and proof of residency.
Unauthorized immigrants seeking a license also must pass a driving test like other applicants.
The legislation, which passed the state Assembly on Wednesday, follows a law approved last year that allowed driver's licenses to be issued to unauthorized immigrants who are eligible for work permits under a revised federal policy.
Alejo said his bill, AB60, would increase safety on California roads. A recent study by the state Department of Motor Vehicles showed that unlicensed drivers are nearly three times as likely to cause a crash, he said.
"This is a good public policy to allow immigrant families across California to be able to take the exam, learn the rules of the road, learn our safe traffic laws, pass the driving exam," Alejo said.
Roughly 2 million people in California would become eligible for a driver's license or ID card under the legislation, according to a committee analysis.
Republican lawmakers opposing the bill said loosening the requirements on who can possess a driver's license would jeopardize other uses for the IDs, such as showing a driver's license as ID to board a plane.
"It is a federal document accepted by federal standards to be identification for other means besides driving," said Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills. "It is your security document."
Before a law approved in 1993, immigration status was not a factor in seeking a California license, said Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles. He countered that a driver's license is not the only identification accepted at airports, pulling out the U.S. passport card he uses when flying to Sacramento.
"This is not about immigration policy," Perez said. "It is about what it takes to prove that you are competent to drive under California's laws that are applicable to our roads."
The Assembly approved AB60 on a vote of 53-20, sending it to the Senate. If approved and signed by the governor, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2015.
Four states - New Mexico, Utah, Washington and Illinois - allow those who are in the U.S. illegally to apply for driver's licenses.