AB60 One Year Later: Success or Failure?
In January 2015, California passed controversial legislation known as AB 60. This bill allowed noncitizens to legally acquire a driver’s license. Even though California was not the first state to bravely allow noncitizens to drive legally, many conservative Republicans argued against the bill, putting forth anti-immigrant arguments. A significant point opponents made was that the bill would reward people for breaking the law. Others feared that the identification would be used to commit voter fraud, even though the license granted under AB60 expressly states it can be used for driving a car and does not grant any other public benefits.
Currently, there are 14 states that distribute driver’s licenses to residents, regardless of citizenship status. Click here to view a map of these states from the National Immigration Law Center. The 14 states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C.
So, it’s now January 2016. What happened?
California gave out a whopping 605,000 licenses to immigrants. Thanks to AB60 over half a million people who were probably driving without a license are now driving with a legal license and insurance. These are individuals who no longer have to fear their car being impounded for driving without a license. And these are individuals who know the rules of the road and are safer drivers.
The number of organ donors shot up in California. It turns out that immigrants who are getting licenses also have a high propensity to sign up as organ donors.
Have any negatives come to pass? New America Media interviewed many California immigrants and found new fears have risen. Fears of being pulled and the description “Federal Limits Apply” on the license might be a flag to a prejudiced officer. The licenses are not recognized in other states and, therefore, have limits, although many fear prejudice would be greater in states with an anti-immigrant stance.
Passing the DMV written test has also proven to be a significant challenge to AB60 applicants. Of course, passing is a challenge for the general population. In October 2015, pass rates were 47% year-to-date. Those results compare with 45% for 2015, pre-AB60. CA will release pass/fail results for AB60 applicants for 2015 sometime in February. In the meantime, Spanish-speaking immigrants are taking classes and getting used to the question format which can be confusing. The translation from English to Spanish, while available, includes technical words which don’t always translate well.
An estimated 1.4million immigrants will apply for a license under AB60 in 2016. Overall, most people seem to feel it was a very needed bill that has serviced not only illegal immigrants but the overall state by making roads safer for all.
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Lisa Lippiner covers driving news for DMVCheatSheets.com