The Golden State is the 10th state added to the Safe and Responsible Driver Act already comprising nine other states (Washington, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Illinois, Vermont, Connecticut and Maryland), the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This Act provides access to licenses to people who cannot establish legal U.S. residency.
Undocumented immigrants without driving licenses were facing hundreds of dollars in fines and the confiscating of their car if caught driving.
To obtain a license, undocumented immigrants should go through several steps. In particular, they should show proof of California residency, complete forms and pay a fee. In the meantime, they are not entitled to provide a Social Security number, according to the new law. Undocumented immigrants are still obliged to pass a driving test to get a license.
There are concerns among immigration advocates that undocumented people in California will be suspicious of the new law and will be in no haste to obtain for a license though they are protected by law from deportation, according to NBC News.
Potential license applicants are protected by the TRUST Act that became state law on Jan. 1, 2014 giving permit to undocumented immigrants to work with authorities without the fear of being deported.
On the other hand, preparations for a possible influx of applicants are in full swing at state Department of Motor Vehicles. DMW personnel was enlarged to include 900 new hires in order to handle the new applicants.
There are an estimated 2 million unlicensed drivers on California highways, a substantial percentage of which are undocumented immigrants. The new measure is aimed at increasing safety by ensuring that undocumented drivers are insured and aware of traffic laws. Advocates for universal licensing have long disputed that issuing driver’s licenses to those who are in the country illegally would improve highway safety by obliging hundreds of thousands of current drivers who are now unlicensed to pass a safety test and get insurance.