California awards first driver’s license to undocumented immigrant

At the start of 2015, the state of California made a major step forward in the realm of immigration reform – it began allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for state driver’s licenses. The state even went as far as to ensure that these immigrants were able to afford car insurance by authorizing them to purchase coverage through the government-established California Low Cost Auto Insurance program.

The California DMV expected a record number of applicants due to this new legislation, and the massive turnout did not disappoint. When California’s Department of Motor Vehicles locations reopened on Jan. 2 after the holiday break, applicants were already lined up outside the buildings and eagerly awaiting the chance to obtain a valid driver’s license. Those interested in applying were directed to do so at one of four specific locations, one of which was the Granada Hills DMV.

One applicant’s story
As the Los Angeles Times reported, South Los Angeles resident Sonia Soriano was the first person in line at the Granada Hills facility, arriving more than 12 hours before it opened, accompanied by her husband and daughter. She emigrated to the U.S. from Sinaloa, Mexico, and has been living in California for several years, driving in fear of being pulled over or being part of an accident. Her 12-year-old daughter Kelya stood by her.

Soriano would have to submit fingerprints and pass the written driving test and vision exam before she could schedule a driving test to complete the process and earn her license. Unfortunately, despite studying thoroughly, she did not pass the written portion of the test. As she told the Los Angeles Times, she struggled with the traffic signal questions but plans to study hard over the weekend and return to try again on Monday.

A win for everyone
This new legislation is clearly a major victory for immigration reform activists and supporters, but it will also serve to benefit the entirety of California’s population. Not only will it mean that more drivers will be properly insured, but it will also make the roads safer for all, as assemblyman Eduardo Garcia of California’s Coachella Valley told the Desert Sun.

“It’s exciting, certainly historic and a great thing for California,” Garcia said. “Having properly trained, tested, licensed and insured drivers on our roads is not only important, it’s a priority.”

The California DMV expects that about 1.4 million undocumented immigrants will apply for driver’s licenses within the next three years.