LOS ANGELES – California on Thursday joined the growing list of states that allow immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to obtain drivers licenses – a measure supported not only by Hispanic activists but by police chiefs and insurance authorities.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill in front of a cheering crowd of immigrants and their supporters, predicting other parts of the country will follow the example set by the nations most populous state.
The licenses, expected to become available no later than January 2015, will carry a special designation on the front and a notice stating that the document is not official federal identification and cannot be used to prove eligibility for employment or public benefits.
This is only the first step, Brown said outside City Hall in Los Angeles. When a million people without their documents drive legally and with respect in the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice.
No longer are undocumented people in the shadows, he said.
Ten other states have enacted measures to give drivers licenses to immigrants in the country illegally, many of them in the past year, according to the National Immigration Law Center.
State officials estimate 1.4 million drivers will apply for licenses under the law over the next three years.