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Undocumented Immigrant Driver's Licenses: 5 Things You Should Know

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on January 05, 2015 10:51 AM

Among the 900 or so new laws taking effect in 2015, California is letting undocumented immigrants get state driver's licenses. Undocumented immigrants are already out there driving, but without licenses because they can't prove they're in the country legally.

If you're in the immigration biz, or even if you're not, here are five things you should know about the new law:

1. AB 60 Requires a Slightly Different Application.

The AB 60 route of applying for a driver's license is available only to applicants who can't prove legal presence in the United States. Applicants need to have proof of their identity, in the form of a foreign passport, state-issued ID card, or foreign birth certificate. They also need proof of California residency, which can come from lease agreements, insurance documents, or utility bills.

2. All Other Requirements Are Still in Force.

AB 60 only changes the part of applying for a driver's license that involves proving lawful presence. Every other part of driving still stands. Applicants need to pass a driving test and maintain car insurance.

3. Undocumented Immigrants Still Aren't Eligible for Benefits.

Like it says on the back of your current license, all the AB 60 license does is let holders drive a car. It "does not establish eligibility for employment, voter registration, or public benefits." Over the years, however, the driver's license has become a de facto ID card.

4. The State Is Tracking Unlawful Discrimination.

The license itself will look different, enabling law enforcement to tell that it was issued under AB 60. The law presciently makes it a violation of state civil rights laws to discriminate against holders of these licenses. The fact that a person has an AB 60 driver's license can't be used as evidence of the holder's immigration status or evidence that person committed a crime. As the ACLU of Northern California points out, presenting the AB 60 license in another state runs its own risks.

They'll be watching, too: In 2018, the California legislature is required to report on instances of civil rights violations resulting from AB 60 driver's licenses.

5. The Law Doesn't Apply to Commercial Licenses.

AB 60 applies only to basic, non-commercial licenses. Commercial licenses still require the applicant to submit a Social Security number with the application, meaning only citizens or legal residents can drive big-rig trucks.

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