The State of California signed AB 60 into law in 2013. This legislation directed the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a driver’s license to any resident who was eligible for the identification, regardless of what their immigration status is at the time. That makes it possible for an undocumented illegal immigrant to receive a driver’s license under AB 60.
This legislation is seen as a significant victory for supporters of the immigrant communities in the state without regard to their legal status. It allows immigrant parents to lawfully drive their children (who are usually American citizens) to school, to see the doctor, or other activities. This law is also treated by supporters as being a win for public safety because it requires an applicant to show proof of insurance, pass a vision test, and be successful on the written and actual driving exam as well.
An AB 60 driver’s license is valid for state identification purposes. It does not serve as a federal ID, so it cannot be used to enter some buildings, visit military installations, or even board an airplane in some states. It does not give anyone the right to vote, work, or receive new benefits either.
List of the Pros of the AB 60 Driver’s License
1. It is a way to reduce the number of false IDs that are currently active in California.
Undocumented immigrants would often use someone’s name or Social Security number as a way to obtain this identification. This false ID would then serve as an official product that could help them to receive benefits or privileges of which they were not entitled. By initiating an AB 60 driver’s license, DMV officials can compare the fingerprints from previous applications to determine who is coming back to apply for another ID. This advantage makes it possible to remove many of the false licenses that were issued in the years before.
2. It does not issue a license immediately to all immigrants.
The DMV will issue an AB 60 driver’s license immediately if the information provided by the immigrant does not trigger an issue with false information. Anyone who used a fake Social Security number, whether it was disclosed to the agency or not, has the chance to receive an Application Review Notice. The agency can then take 60+ days to review the application to see if the ID should be issued to the applicant.
The agency then interviews the individuals about their reasons for supplying false information in the first place. If the official asking the questions believes that these actions caused harm, then they have the right to refer that individual for criminal prosecution.
3. It reduces the hardships that immigrants face with their transportation needs.
The public transportation systems can only help families to a certain extent. If a child needs to visit the doctor or attend a function sponsored by their after-school program, then having a parent drive them to their appointment or the event may be the only option. Driving without a license in California creates a circumstance where the parent could be arrested. That incident is enough to trigger a review of that person’s status for deportation proceedings. By having a driver’s license that proves they know local laws and have the skills to operate a vehicle, it can relieve a significant burden on active families.
4. ICE has the authority to access DMV databases in California.
Although some people do not support the idea of an undocumented immigrant having the right to obtain a driver’s license, the ACLU does confirm that ICE has the authority to access the AB 60 driver’s license database. This data will provide information about the applicant’s past history, including whether or not they have a DUI conviction. An incident like that, or a felony, is enough for immigration officials to start considering a deportation proceeding. Applying for the license with this history will help officials find these people quickly, and then get them off of the streets as needed.
5. It is a separate license from the standard ID that the state issues.
If you successfully applied for a driver’s license in the past without providing false information, then you do not need to worry about applying under the AB 60 statute. “A person who lives in California is supposed to have a CA driver’s license,” advises the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, “so we recommend applying for an AB 60 ID if you live here now, even if you have a valid license from another state.”
If you have a driver’s license from another state that was not issued under false pretenses, then transferring it to a California ID should not be difficult.
6. It does not take a person’s immigration history into account.
A person’s immigration history is not a factor in the determination of eligibility during the AB 60 driver’s license application process. Because the DMV will discover past criminal convictions as part of the discovery process with the exception of minor offenses, an undocumented person’s name, address, and photograph will become available to law enforcement if they are under investigation. Anyone applying after a recent deportation order may also find themselves at greater risk of an intervention because of this legislation.
7. It is legislation which receives potential protection under the 14th Amendment.
Many of the proponents of an AB 60 driver’s license suggest that the 14th Amendment provides for a state to offer equal protection to all individuals who live in their jurisdiction. The reference is not to just American citizens, but to everyone regardless of their immigration status. By guaranteeing a particular level of skill before issuing the ID, it can make the roads safer, reducing the number of uninsured drivers out there, and improve compliance with local traffic safety laws.
8. It could improve national security.
Because immigrants of any status can apply for an AB 60 driver’s license, the application process in California can help federal officials secure the borders better. By identifying potential threats as they apply for this ID, the individuals who may be challenging to track otherwise will now have their information in the system. Since this process allows for ICE to work on deportation proceedings for anyone not in the country with the correct visa, there can be economic benefits to consider too because there may be more employment opportunities available if enforcement of the statute is consistent.
9. It creates a lot of jobs in the state after the legislation was signed into law.
Under the AB 60 driver’s license law, over 1 million new IDs were estimated to be needed for immigrants of any status, although the American Safety Council specifically mentions that it is for undocumented immigrants. The state decided to hire about 900 new government workers to accommodate the need for more licenses thanks to the law. Several more offices were opened around the state to help the new drivers who would be submitting applications as well. Each additional job contributes to the local economy, provides benefits to the employee and their family, and supports a stronger driving infrastructure since there are more people taking the written and practical tests.
10. It follows the precedents of other states who already issue licenses.
The Oregon state legislature passed a law that was similar to AB 60 which would allow for the issuance of driver’s licenses no matter what a person’s immigration status happened to be. Voters then rejected the law with a supermajority of 68%. This action is more of an exception than the rule as several states besides California already offered a similar opportunity to individuals. Washington, Michigan, Maine, Hawaii, and Maryland all allow drivers to obtain a license without proving their current citizenship status.
That is why another level of licensing is often in place. For Washington State, the difference is the enhanced driver’s license which undocumented immigrants cannot obtain. You must prove your citizenship for the EDL, provide evidence of your current residence, and other identification verification documents before the ID will be issued. Beginning in 2020, only an EDL in Washington can get you onto an airplane.
11. It does not change a person’s legal status in any way.
The purpose of the AB 60 driver’s license is to allow an individual the chance to legally drive a motor vehicle and nothing more. It does not shift their eligibility status for any program if they did not qualify for it in the first place.
List of the Cons of the AB 60 Driver’s License
1. It could trigger an immediate review of someone’s immigration status.
California laws prohibits all law enforcement personnel from discriminating against someone simply because they hold an AB 60 license. That legislation does not cover the actions of officials at the federal level or from a different state. Because this driver’s license in California is specific to individuals who have an immigration status of some type, it could trigger an immediate review of that person’s current visa. If one is not available because that person is in the country illegally, then it could initiate deportation proceedings.
“Do not present an AB 60 license to federal officials such as ICE, CBP, or TSA, or to law enforcement in another state,” advises the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
2. It does not allow someone to travel by air.
Because TSA is a federal agency, the laws in California governing the AB 60 driver’s license do not apply when you go through security at an airport. Security officials are under no obligation to accept this identification if you are trying to fly somewhere. Your boarding pass could be rejected because the official does not consider it to be a qualifying ID.
“AB 60 does not protect against discrimination by TSA officials, and the concern is that TSA agents may use an AB 60 license to flag people and refer them to ICE,” writes the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. “If a person needs to fly, they should use other identity documents, such as an unexpired passport, and be aware that TSA engages in immigration enforcement.”
3. It could create a situation where an individual is referred to law enforcement for fraud.
Before AB 60 was signed into law, it was common for illegal immigrants to present at the DMV with false information to obtain a driver’s license. If that person were then to show up to apply for an AB 60 driver’s license under their real name, then there is a concern that the officials could refer them to law enforcement for criminal prosecution – which could eventually lead to deportation.
“Under the DMV’s policy, someone who has used a made-up Social Security number to apply for a driver’s license in the past should be okay,” says the ILRC. They also note that if the DMV believes that if the act of providing false information caused any kind of harm, then a referral will take place.
4. It allows ICE to find specific individuals quickly if they received an AB 60 driver’s license.
If ICE is looking for a specific individual in California, then they can contact the DMV to ask about that person’s AB 60 driver’s license, address, and photograph. This process applies to whatever enforcement policies are active at the time, such as when the Obama Administration made it a priority to locate and deport individuals with a prior criminal history that included a DUI, any felony, or 3+ misdemeanor convictions. Because several counties in California have stopped honoring ICE detainer requests, it is more likely that the AB 60 system will continue to be a top priority for immigration enforcement officials.
5. It may grant a low-level legal status to an undocumented immigrant.
Although AB 60 is very specific about what rights and privileges come with a driver’s license under this legislation, the issuance of an ID is still a low-level acceptance of someone who arrived illegally. By providing this assurance, it could provide legal assistance to some people who are knowingly breaking the laws of the United States every day. That could undermine the current status of immigration law, encouraging more people to migrate to the country even though they don’t have permission to do so.
6. It creates an additional taxpayer expense to consider.
Proponents of an AB 60 driver’s license suggest that the cost-savings achieved by taking poor drivers off of the road will outweigh whatever new administrative expenses occur because of the issuances of these new licenses. The reality of this issue is that the people who feel like their presence in this country is at risk will not apply for the license. They will continue to operate on roadways without obtaining the ID, which means only a small subset of the population will actually take advantage of this statute.
7. It places employers in a Catch-22 scenario.
Because an AB 60 driver’s license does not qualify a worker for employment, a business owner might rightfully decline to hire someone or give them an I-9 form because the ID indicates that their immigration status is questionable. If the employer takes this action, then it opens itself to the possibility of an investigation by the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Department for discrimination on the basis of national origin.
If the employer decides to comply with the state regulations, then they might find themselves under investigation for knowingly hiring an illegal immigrant. That is why critics of this legislation of say that it favors those who are already breaking the law instead of the people who came to the United States using the correct processes.
Conclusion of the AB 60 Driver’s License Pros and Cons
There is a total of 11 states and the District of Columbia which allow for state or district officials to issue a driver’s license without asking about a person’s immigration status. Although critics stepped up their debate on the advantages and disadvantages of this process when California passed the AB 60 law in 2013. During the first month of the program, about 59,000 licenses were issued out of 236,000 total applications.
California expects to issue a total of 4 million AB 60 driver’s license over the lifetime of the program. These licenses are clearly identifiable because they offer the letters DP on the front of the ID instead of DL. The card also says that the ID is not acceptable for official federal purposes, does not establish employment eligibility, or public benefits.
The pros and cons of an AB 60 driver’s license offer an advantage to public safety while placing the security of some individuals at risk because they may not hold a current visa. Proponents approve of the legislation because it allows the children of immigrant families who are often Americans an opportunity to participate in society equally. Because it can also provide ICE with detailed information about an undocumented individual, some critics even see this policy as a positive step in the right direction.
About the Author of this Article
Natalie Regoli is a seasoned writer, who is also our editor-in-chief. Vittana's goal is to publish high quality content on some of the biggest issues that our world faces. If you would like to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.