California (FOX 40) – California Division of Motor Vehicles is preparing for roughly 1.4 million new driver’s license applicants after Jan. 1.
That’s when Assembly Bill 60, or the Safe and Responsible Drivers Act, goes into effect.
FOX40 spoke with a Maria Rodriguez, an undocumented immigrant living in West Sacramento who plans to apply for a license under the new law.
“It’s the best thing that could have happened to us in California. We’ve been waiting for it for many, many years,” Rodriguez said.
To prepare for all of the new applicants, the Department of Motor Vehicles has hired about 900 new employees and opened several temporary offices across the state.
The DMV is encouraging all eligible applicants to start preparing for their drivers tests early.
When Nevada adopted a similar law, about 90 percent of undocumented immigrants failed the written exam.
Undocumented immigrants will go through the same steps everyone else does to get a license.
They’ll take a written and vision test, if they pass they’ll get their permit then they’ll take a behind-the-wheel test and if they pass that, they will get a license but theirs will look a little bit different than everyone else’s.
On the front, it will say “Federal Limits Apply.” On the back it reads: “This card is not acceptable for official federal purposes” and that it can only be used as a license to drive.
The requirements are: proof of California residency, fingerprints and proper identification.
“Our challenge has been to identify documents that are produced by other countries that are secure enough. That means that they verify that the person who is getting them is actually the person who is applying for them,” California DMV spokesperson Armando Botello said.
The DMV believes a licensed driver equals a safer driver.
“We strongly believe that by having more people with a driver’s license and having gone through the whole process, the roads will be somehow safer in California,” Botello said.
The law has an outspoken opponent.
Don Rosenberg’s son was hit and killed by an undocumented immigrant driver in 2010. Last summer, Rosenberg was the only person to testify against AB60 at the capitol.
Safety is his big concern.
“There’s no evidence that giving drivers test to anyone – not necessarily people here illegally but giving drivers licenses to anyone makes the roads safer and makes them better drivers and to the contrary the evidence is overwhelming that it doesn’t,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg feels undocumented immigrants are not experienced enough to drive, and says because the DMV’s written test is offered in 10 languages, he fears they will not be able to read and understand signs on the road.
Maria Rodriguez says the language barrier won’t be an issue for her because she speaks perfect English. Getting a license will give her the freedom to drive her kids around without worry.
“Even though they would not give driver’s licenses, there`s still people like me driving out there, so they`re still gonna do it. As a matter of fact, just give something good to the people that deserve it, that will really take advantage of it,” Rodriguez said.
Like it or not, starting after January first, Maria Rodriguez and roughly 1.4 million others can begin the process of becoming licensed to drive.
California will become the 11th state to allow undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses.
It will cost the standard amount of $33. Like all drivers, undocumented immigrants are required to have insurance.
They must provide proof of residency and ID. The DMV still has not released the list of documents accepted to prove identity.
A DMV spokesperson expects the list to be released in the coming weeks.
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