Archbishop praises driver's license signing

A landmark measure granting California driver's licenses to undocumented people in the country illegally represents an important commitment to immigrants, said Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez.

The archbishop said he hopes the bill — signed into law Oct. 3 by Gov. Jerry Brown — will lead the way to comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.

“Driving is one of the basic necessities of life,” said Archbishop Gomez during an Oct. 3 signing ceremony at Los Angeles City Hall. “So this new law is going to make a big difference for millions of people in their everyday lives. It will make it easier for them to get to work, to go to school, to go the store, to get to church. This bill will make our families, our communities and our economy stronger.”

California Assembly Bill 60 (Immigrant Driver’s Licenses), by Assemblyman Luis Alejo of Watsonville, goes into effect no later than Jan. 1, 2015, and calls upon the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants who can prove their identities, have established California residency and pass driving exams.

The licenses would have the initials DP (driver's privilege), rather than DL (driver's license), and would state that the document "does not establish eligibility for employment or public benefit." The DMV will decide what documentation is required to obtain a driver's license.

Additionally, driver’s licenses issued under this law “shall not be used as evidence of the holder’s citizenship or immigration status,” nor shall they be used “as a basis for a criminal investigation, arrest or detention.”

Archbishop Gomez thanked Gov. Brown and Alejo for their “leadership and commitment to our poor and working poor, especially our immigrants.” But, he added, “As good as this legislation is, it’s still only a half-measure.

“Our nation’s immigration system is totally broken,” he said. “Sacramento can’t fix that problem. Only Washington can. We need immigration reform that keeps families together, that gives rights to workers, and that provides a generous path to citizenship.

“So let’s keep working together with our leaders in Washington for reform that is real and comprehensive — so all our brothers and sisters can join us in the promise of America, and so they can live with the dignity that God intends for them.”

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) was among the organizations which celebrated the signing of the legislation.

“The state legislature and the governor recognize a driver’s license makes our roads safer and offers a practical tool any Californian, regardless of immigration status, can use to conduct everyday tasks that greatly contribute to our state’s growth,” said Angelica Salas, CHIRLA executive director.”

AB 60, Salas added, “is not a perfect bill, but it keeps millions of California drivers from having their cars impounded, face stiff penalties and court fees, and because every driver must pass a written and driving exam, is likely to make roads safer for everyone.”

Moreover, she called upon both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress to collaborate in passing legislation. “When doing the people’s work is the expectation and not the rarest of gems, our nation is better for it,” she said.

The legislation cites a recent report published in the journal “Accident Analysis and Prevention,” which asserted that the DMV estimates that 12 percent of the drivers on the road do not have valid driver’s licenses. “In the State of California,” the legislation said, “there are potentially 1.4 million drivers who are unlicensed and uninsured.”



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