Driving Without a License in California.

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By Lupita Peimbert.

(California, USA) – That a person knows how to drive safely in California, and that he or she can show proof of identity and residence in the state, will be qualifying factors for the DMV or Department of Motorized Vehicles to be required by law to issue an original driver’s license, even if the requesting person may be an undocumented immigrant.

That is what AB-60, the Driver’s License Bill –now on its way to the Governor’s Office, will do if signed into law.

“The governor has committed to sign the Driver’s License Bill before October 13; he is serious,” said Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) via telephone Tuesday. Alejo is the legislator who introduced and has been carrying the bill this year, along with other colleagues.

The driver’s License bill, however, had been introduced 9 times since 1998 by then California legislator Gil Cedillo. The measure most of the time was ready to be signed into law, usually ending up vetoed, and a couple of times it did not go far in the process.

For those whose driving rights and privileges have never been questioned, for those who have never felt the need to drive without a license in order to work, take their children to school, and basically be able to function, this issue may sound more or less irrelevant.

But for the estimated 2 million people driving without a license, the passing of this law is a huge victory and a cause for great celebration. A cause, that once it actually becomes law and it is implemented, will have a tremendous impact on their lives.

  • No more being stopped by a police officer and having their car impounded, when they could not show a driver’s license, regardless of the reason for them being stopped.
  • No more leaving home in the morning and not coming back because they were deported, also after being stopped by a police officer.
  • No more repercussions to the rest of drivers when having to deal with uninsured motorists in case of an accident, or with the potential damage that a non-tested driver could cause.
  • No more fear and whatever other psychological and sociological impact driving without a license may have had in each and every one of the immigrants who did not have a driver’s license because of their immigration status.

“AB60 is dedicated to Gil Cedillo, his family, and to the thousands of workers and immigrants who marched and voiced their concerns incessantly for years,” Alejo emphasized. “We are not giving it to them, they earned it.”

AB60 –the driver’s license bill, was approved by the California Senate on Thursday, September 12.  Immediately after, Governor Jerry Brown issued the following statement “This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally. Hopefully, it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due.”

The compassion of our governor is truly appreciated, but I can’t stop thinking: Couldn’t we keep the driver’s license issue aside from immigration and related politics? Isn’t this a public safety matter?

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[Article#1 of many, by Lupita Peimbert] –
Lupita is a freelance journalist who has covered the ups and downs of the driver’s license bill since 1998.