Gov. Jerry Brown is under much scrutiny from both Republicans and Democrats as he is set to sign a bill this Thursday which will add California to the states that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Immigration advocate groups find this as a remarkable victory for undocumented immigrants and the community recognizing that it is time to pull all immigrants out of the shadows.
Immigration advocates have been lobbying for change in the state with the largest population of immigrants for years so that immigrants would be able to drive without having to worry about being pulled over and deported. “This is really a historic day for California,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “This is really simply about driving and ultimately about being able to engage in everyday activities that every American does.”
The effort recently got more media attention as immigrants who were caught driving without a license began seeing their cars impounded and they were placed in deportation proceedings before they had a chance to get a lawyer. Most states do not allow immigrants who are in the country illegally to obtain licenses, but a growing number have passed similar bills giving licenses only for driving purposes.
The one criticism of the licenses is that the immigrants will have a distinct mark on the front of the card that shows that they are undocumented. Immigration advocates raised concerns that this will only contribute to racial profiling, but the bill also contains measures that protect against discrimination. About 1.4 million drivers will most likely apply for a license under this law. Advocates see this as an opportunity to get a bill signed and passed by this year. This is also a good opportunity to show collaboration between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials over the issue.
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