The new state law changed people's lives, but many individuals with criminal records or deportation orders prefer to wait.

On January 2, 2015, the first day that the AB60 law that authorizes undocumented immigrants driver licenses came into force in California, Martha Ivonne Servín went to the offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the city of Redlands in San Bernardino County, to apply for your license.

"I already renewed it for five years in June last year," says Martha Ivonne, who says the driver's license took away the scraper when driving her car.

Since January 2015, Martha Ivonne, her husband and her father-in-law have been driving peacefully, without fear that the police will stop them and apply fines for not having a license.

“The three of us are very happy. In my case, I was able to go back to work and take my children to school because in 2012 I had an accident and a racist policeman got me tested for three years for driving without a license. When AB60 arrived, they gave it to me and I went to court to have the trial period taken away, ”he says.

"Emotionally and economically the license changes your life”, Says Martha Ivonne.

Melecio García took out his AB60 driver's license to drive his car and motorcycle. (Aurelia Ventura / The Opinion)

On January 2, it was five years since the state of California issues driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. The AB60 law took effect in early 2015, a little more than a year after it was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2013.

At the request of The opinion, the DMV reported that in five years they have issued 1.6 million AB60 driver's licenses, a figure that includes renewals and duplicates.

They do not have an exact number of AB60 licenses given per individual, but the DMV estimates that more than one million immigrants have benefited.

Since 2015, Melecio García has been driving without fear with his AB60 license. (Photo by Aurelia Ventura / La Opinion)

Resounding success

California insurance commissioner Ricardo Lara who was a key factor as a senator and president of the Latino bench so that in 2013, the AB60 was approved in the legislature and made law, says it has been a resounding success for residents of the state.

“The AB60 is much more than a requirement to drive a vehicle; It recognizes that all drivers, regardless of immigration status, have the same right to go to work and travel with their families as any other person, ”he says.

He adds that the law recognizes and states that drivers who protect themselves are full members of the community in California.

"In the past five years, those who have been able to get out of the shadows and travel on California highways without fear of losing their vehicle have made the roads safer for all of us traveling by car," he notes.

The Insurance Commission has no figures on how much the number of auto insurance has increased since the AB60 law.

Senate President Emeritus Kevin De León shows the AB60 law after it was signed by then Governor Jerry Brown in 2013. (Archive / Opinion).

Demand down

In 2015, during the first year of issuance of AB60 licenses, 604,000 were delivered; in 2016, 218,000; in 2017, 148,000; in 2018, 125,000; and in 2019, the figure increased to 572,000, most likely because many already had to renew their licenses that they obtained in 2015.

Martha Ivonne considers that The demand for driver's licenses went off a little because of the fear of migration raids.

“What has happened is when ICE is looking for someone with a background, asks DMV for their record and they get updated information on where they live,” he says.

She knows people who really fear going to get their AB60 driver's license, and they don't want to. "Even people who have a good economic position," he adds.

One of the immigrants who has preferred not to apply for the AB60 license is the immigrant businessman, Walter Santos, owner of Santos Flowers, a flower business in the city of Santa Ana that employs more than 20 workers.

“My lawyer told me to wait a little for the deportation order I had,” says Walter, who in October 2017, the Migration and Customs Service (ICE), arrested him and was about to deport him.

Walter Santos, a successful merchant in Santa Ana asks the Trump administration for an opportunity to fix his immigration status and stay with his family. (Araceli Martínez / The Opinion).
Gualterio Santos, a successful merchant from Santa Ana, prefers to wait for his AB60 license. (Araceli Martínez / The Opinion).

Walter managed to have his deportation order taken away, and several of his seven children who are already adults and born in the United States have applied for residence.

“Of course I feel very insecure about driving without a license. I go everywhere for my business, and I go to Las Vegas, ”he says.

Because they do not have permission to drive, they have lost up to three vehicles seized by the police due to lack of a license.

But despite the fact that AB60 gives him the opportunity to have the document, Walter has decided to wait to not complicate his immigration situation.

"I will wait a little longer in the hope of having social security and fixing my status. Let's see what God says”, Says this successful immigrant from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Francisco Moreno, spokesman for the Council of Mexican Federations (COFEM), agrees that the demand for AB60 driver's licenses went down a lot because of the suspicion that there are of many immigrants to give their personal data of where they live.

“They feel that when they take out their license‘ they put on their breasts ’- a phrase to express that they make their personal information accessible – to the federal government. More since President Trump intensified the operations of arrests against immigrants; and do not say after this month the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will review the laws of the states that grant driver's licenses to immigrants without documents, ”he says.

Immigrants with criminal records or deportation orders should not apply for their AB60 driver's license, they recommend. (Photo Aurelia Ventura / La Opinion)

Who should not remove the AB60?

Migration lawyer Alex Gálvez recommends that those with criminal records and previous deportations not apply for the AB60 driver's license.

“Because California no longer cooperates with migration and does not notify them when an undocumented immigrant is leaving prison, ICE has focused on looking for addresses in the DMV based on the AB60 license or those who have registered a car. That is the number one method they use now to locate immigrants with a background or deportation orders. ”, observes the lawyer.

Of course, he explains that the DMV does not share their database with ICE, but cannot deny it when they request the data of a person they are looking for.

"Many immigrants have been arrested because they provided their address to obtain the AB60 driver's license," he says.

What he has known, he says, is that some undocumented immigrants with a background have dared to take out their AB60 license, giving the residence of relatives or friends who are residents or citizens with whom they live temporarily or have lived.

“It is not something that I recommend because it means lying to a state agency, but they have informed me that they have done so with the sole intention of protecting their family. Also, if ICE arrives to look for them there, their family and friends immediately notify them that they are after them, ”he says.

Nevertheless, the defender recommends those undocumented who have no background or deportation orders, to take out their AB60 driver's license.

"They will save a lot of money on fines," he says.


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