Obtaining a driver's license could become much easier for illegal immigrants. A California lawmaker has introduced as Assembly bill that would provide licenses to anyone who can show they pay taxes, regardless of their immigration status.
Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) said AB 60 would reduce fatal crashes and improve public safety. "We're the state with the largest immigrant population. Many of those are undocumented in critical industries that couldn't go without the work they do," said Alejo. "Whether it be the agricultural industry, the restaurants, the hotels, they are already here. They are already working."
"It would allow them to learn the laws, traffic laws, allow them to get insurance while driving on the road, and it would make our roads much safer," he explained.
A new state law that took effect January 1st allows some illegal immigrants who qualify for a federal work permit program to get a driver's license. But, AB 60 would take that one step further.
"I think it's a long overdue effort. I think it ultimately would definitely contribute towards making the public roads safer," said Jess Nieto, Executive Director of Heritage of America Educational and Cultural Foundation.
Heritage of America is a local non-profit that offers immigration, housing and citizenship services.
"When you have people driving without a license, it means they haven't gone through the process to be certified that they are really good drivers, and most won't have insurance either," he continued.
A recent study by the California Department of Motor Vehicles shows unlicensed drivers in our state are nearly three times more likely to cause a fatal crash.
"I don't like the idea of someone driving out there without a license and no insurance and they hit me and maybe kill me," said Al Ferry.
"We all have to abide by the law so they should learn what the law is, so they can also protect themselves," said Sara Ortiz.
But, some say giving licenses to undocumented immigrants rewards illegal activity. "It's foolish. You're breaking the law. If you're here illegal, you're not entitled to take licenses," said Dick Jennings.
Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) said it's an issue that should be handled on a federal level. In a statement she said, "The Democrats can pass AB 60 on their own because they have overwhelming control of both houses of the state Legislature."
"But, I don't think the fifty individual states should be writing piecemeal immigration laws - this is something Congress needs to handle at the federal level," she continued.
"And, while there are some practical reasons that it makes sense to test and license any driver on our roads, how does a state government provide a document to drive legally, if the person came here illegally?"