Marco Negrete, consul of community affairs at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco, spreads the word about the new licenses at an educational forum in Redwood City. Photo Alejandro Galicia

The landmark California Assembly Bill 60—which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015—will finally grant the state’s undocumented immigrants a shot at a driver’s license, but many remain skeptical of the new law.

While proponents of AB60 say that more licensed drivers would make for safer California roadways, the skeptics are worried that information submitted to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

“Some people are saying that this is a trap … that we’re going to share information with ICE, or that law enforcement is out to get them. That’s absolutely not true,” said Lizette Mata, the DMV’s deputy director of special projects, who attended a June 21 AB60 educational forum in Redwood City. “We’re making sure that that doesn’t happen. We’re not going to share their information.”

There are other concerns as well.

During the AB60 public hearings on June 24 and 26 in Los Angeles and Oakland, respectively, scores of people testified that the documents needed to prove identity–one of the DMV requirements before applying–would be too expensive to obtain. Under the current draft, the DMV provides four options to prove one’s identity, three of which require multiple forms of identifications, such as a passport or a Consulate ID.

“We’re really hopeful that the DMV will be receptive to these concerns because there were so many who voiced them,” said Daisy Vieyra, communications associate at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California, who attended the hearing in Oakland. “We’re optimistic with the DMV, the overall process and the implantation of the law. At the heart of the law, we’re talking about improving people’s lives, allowing people to finally drive to and from school or work without fear of having their car impounded.”

AB60 license

The licenses available:
• Class C
• Motorcycle

Steps necessary to apply:
• Establish identity with DMV
• Prove California residency (at least 6 months)
• Get printout of driving record ($5) using DMV “X” number
• Make appointment for writing test (can schedule as early as Nov. 17)

Ways to prove identity:
• Consulate ID
• Mexican Id card
• Tax records
• Out-of-state driver’s license
• Passports
• Marriage and divorce records
• School records

Ways to prove CA residency:
• Rental property papers
• PG&E bills
• Phone bills

General info:
• Cost is $33 (same as standard license)
• Make sure to clear driving record before applying
• Test can be taken 3 times
• DMV handbooks are free and are available in 11 languages online and in field offices
• Practice tests can be found online at
• Check DMV website frequently for updates
• The license is not proof of citizenship or a visa or a worker’s permit

Another issue that arose during the Redwood City forum concerned the actual design of the driver’s license. Though the license won’t label someone’s legal immigration status outright, it will require a mark that will differentiate it from ordinary licenses to comply with federal law.

“The majority of people don’t like that. I don’t that much either,” said Brenda (who declined to give her last name), an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who’s lived in San Mateo for nine years and attended the forum. “But it’s still a win; it’s still an advancement.”

The state is requesting that the mark remain small, but size aside, it has some worried of potential discrimination.

“I think their biggest concern is, ‘Will this license completely protect me from discrimination?’ Unfortunately, nothing can protect you from discrimination,” said Mata. “However, this license will allow you to be able to drive lawfully. And it will protect you in that, if you are discriminated against just because you have this license, there’s language in the law where you can go to an attorney … and they will be able to assist you, because cops aren’t supposed to be doing that.”

Still, despite concerns, the law has many hopeful.

“We saw this as an important advancement of human rights for all people in California,” said Marco Negrete, consul of community affairs at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco. “For me personally, I think that it was time. It was a relief. Because the law makes all the sense in the world. In the United States, you need to drive–for everything. To go to school, to go to work, to go to the hospital, you need to drive.”

The DMV, which has worked closely with various law enforcement agencies such as California Highway Patrol (CHP), is expecting roughly 2 million to apply over the next three years, and is heavily urging applicants to study for the written and driving exam.

“We’re definitely taking the lessons learned from the state of Nevada,” said Mata, who noted the 90 percent fail rate among Nevada’s undocumented immigrant populous who applied for that state’s driver’s license. “We have a lot to lose.”

To deal with that influx, the DMV will add four major Costco-like license-processing centers where applicants can take the writing test with or without an appointment The Bay Area location will be in San Jose. The soonest an appointment can be scheduled is Nov. 17 or 45 days before the new year.

Saul Mayen, who’s driven unlawfully since immigrating to Redwood City from his native Guatemala nine years ago, can’t wait for that date.

“The only thing left for us is to study and prepare. I want to be one of the first to get that license,” he said. “We don’t want that fail rate here in California. If they’re giving us this opportunity, we have to take advantage of it. So they see that we’re interested.”

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