Weeks after signing the country’s highest minimum wage bill into law, California Governor Jerry Brown has approved a bill that will allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses. The governor had opposed the bill for several years, rejecting it after members of his Democratic Party had attempted to push it through the state’s legislative body. Similar bills had also been struck down by Brown’s predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Despite Brown’s initial hesitation towards the bill, the governor has been a strong supporter of immigrant rights. Last year, he approved a bill that allowed driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants that arrived in the United States as children and can legally work in the United States. This new law is the next logical step in his immigration reform, and more comprehensive as it includes all undocumented immigrants.
The new law was sponsored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D- Watsonville). According to the Sacramento Bee, the new legislation “requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants by Jan. 1, 2015. The license must include a mark distinguishing it from a regular license, such as the letters ‘DP,’ for driving privilege, instead of ‘DL,’ for driver’s license.” The law includes other provisions for the new licenses. They cannot, for instance, be used as identification for federal purposes, such as air travel. These provisions stem from the federal Real ID law, which requires states to distinguish between licenses for citizens and for undocumented immigrants.
Brown celebrated the signing at a ceremony outside Los Angeles’s City Hall. “This is only the first step. When a million people without their documents drive legally and with respect in the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice. No longer are undocumented people in the shadows,” the governor said in his speech.
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Several other states, including Illinois, Colorado and Oregon, have either enacted or are pursuing similar legislation.