In 2015, the California Department of Motor Vehicles issued an estimated 605,000 new driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally, two-thirds of which were issued during the first six months of the year, according to the Los Angeles Times.
These licenses make up nearly half of all new driver’s licenses issued in California in 2015, following the implementation of legislation that allows immigrants in the country without permission to legally drive in the state.
Assembly Bill 60, which was authored by Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo of Salinas and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013, took effect in January 2015, making California one of 12 states to offer driver’s licenses to immigrants who entered the country illegally.
With the largest population of people in the U.S. illegally, California estimates 1.4 million people will be eligible to apply for the new licenses -- about 22 percent of its total number of immigrants in the country illegally, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The impetus behind the bill was an attempt to improve road safety, with many California officials believing granting the legal right to drive to immigrants, regardless of status, will allow more people to receive training and make them more likely to be insured. Critics dispute the idea that immigrants who entered the country illegally should be allowed to drive, seeing it as support for illegal immigration.
Although the licenses granted by the new legislation permit the bearer to drive in California, they will have “federal limits apply” printed on them, meaning other states as well as the federal government will not recognize the license as a form of legal identification.
To accommodate the influx of new license-seekers, in 2014 the DMV hired 1,000 temporary employees, opened four new processing centers and extended its hours of operation to include Saturdays, according to the Los Angeles Times. After the initial increase in applications subsided, the DMV announced that it would retain only 200 temporary employees by the 2016-2017 fiscal year, and has since resumed regular office hours.