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DMV: New California Licenses Meant To Increase Safety, Not Deportations

Photo caption: Sample of new California driver license for applicants who cannot prove legal...

Photo credit: California Department of Motor Vehicles

Sample of new California driver license for applicants who cannot prove legal immigration status.

Thousands of immigrants living illegally in San Diego are expected to apply for a driver’s license under a California law that went into effect Jan. 1.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles estimates it could take three years to process all the driver's license applications from immigrants living in California illegally.

Assembly Bill 60, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in 2013, went into effect this year. The DMV started processing the first applications on Friday. The DMV said that there were approximately 17,200 applicants on that day.

Adriana Jasso, a member of the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego, said the organization has been holding workshops for months to advise people on what they need to do to apply.

Jasso said some people living in San Diego illegally have questioned whether to apply, for fear that law enforcement could use the information to deport them. But she said those without a criminal history should not worry.

DMV spokesman Jaime Garza said the intent of the law is to make the roads safer, not to identify people living in the country illegally.

“There are provisions under Assembly Bill 60 that prevent police officers from using this driver’s license to report an undocumented driver to immigration authorities,“ Garza said. “Law enforcement does have access to DMV records when they are doing a search for a criminal investigation. It’s just the way the law is set up here. But the DMV does not automatically share enforcement with law enforcement; those requests must be authorized under the law.“

Jasso said those who have been deported before should seek legal advice before applying for a license.

Garza said the DMV is watching how demand for the licenses develops. Many of the DMV offices in San Diego that were closed on Saturdays due to budget cuts will now remain open, but only for people who have made an appointment to apply for a driver's license. Appointments can be made from 45 days to 90 days ahead.

There are four DMV license-processing centers around the state, where people can walk in to apply for a license without an appointment. However, none are in San Diego County; the closest is in Stanton, Orange County.

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