California debates driver’s licenses for immigrants

Activists in the Sacramento, Calif., area are pushing hard to reform their state’s immigration policies. A series of bills is on its way through the California legislature that could potentially open up the state to become the most immigrant friendly in the country, the Huffington Post reported.

Should it pass, a bill known as AB 60 would allow millions of immigrants in California to receive a driver’s license.

According to the Los Angeles Times, critics fear the bill would allow undocumented workers to hide behind state and federal immigration laws. The bill was sent to California Gov. Jerry Brown after a string of support surfaced. Two well-known officers – Chief Charlie Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department and L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca – both expressed support for the bill, hoping to send the message that police are there to work with California residents, no matter their status.

Police also told reporters that immigrants unable to get car insurance end up involved in more hit-and-run incidents. This statistic is projected to go down if the bill passes. Were licenses to be issued, they would contain a special water mark noting that the card would authorize driving only, and could not be used as a method of identification.

“TSA and federal officials and law enforcement will all be aware that these grant driving privileges only and aren’t confirmed identification,” Kim Raney, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, said.

Opponents of the proposed reforms, including Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, believe that it will alter the point of immigration laws. In Krikorian’s opinion, current legislation is in place to make living in the U.S. with an illegal status inconvenient. Allowing driver’s licenses would defeat that purpose.

Supporters disagree, arguing that the legislation will move California toward having safer roads.

As legislators examine the bills, debates continue to be heated between supporters and opponents of these immigration reforms.