The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has released statistics showing that two years after a controversial law went into effect allowing undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses, over 800,000 illegal residents of the state have been issued the credentials.
According to Maricela Gutierrez, executive director of SIREN, an immigration advocacy group, the law has proven a veritable godsend to undocumented residents of California.
“Many of them have been able to drive their kids to school and to run errands, when many times they were taking buses that would take them up to three hours to get from Point A to Point B,” she said. “It opened up new opportunities.”
One person who benefited from the law said, “It’s a completely different feeling because you no longer have to worry about seeing a police car. You’re much more at peace when you drive. You can drive long distances with your family – to Disneyland or to the Monterey Bay Aquarium – with confidence. You don’t live in fear.”
Although many undocumented immigrants have expressed concern that obtaining licenses could make it easier for the various arms of immigration enforcement to locate them, it clearly seems that California has their backs.
The California DMV issued a statement this week in which it said, in part, that “the California Department of Motor Vehicles takes very seriously the protection of personal information for all license holders,” while Luis Alejo, the assemblyman who authored the law, said, “We would like to reassure the public, and our immigrant brothers and sisters, that we believe in respect, justice, dignity and equality and that is how we will approach legislative action going forward.”
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large