Advocates for the Undocumented Seek Removal of Obstacles to Getting CA Drivers Licenses

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KABLOOEY!

A report on California recently joining 10 other states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia in allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers licenses puts a spotlight on the Mexican Consulate in Santa Ana, where five-hour driver's ed classes are being offered for free to ... ick ... excuse me. I need to clean up the goo from the heads of Register readers/Weekly commenters whose heads just exploded.

Learn more about the program at California Report (and, no, it wasn't written by David Cronenberg).

Based on the visit, many students already drive. When driver's ed teacher Juan Carlos Lopez started off a recent Saturday class by asking how many already drive, a roomful of hands went up, California Report, uh, reports.

"Even though I don't have a driver's license, I still have to go to school. I have to go to work," explained Mabel Barrera, 27. She has lived in the U.S. since she was 15, and has been driving since she was 17. Still, this was her first-ever driving class.

It is estimated there are 2 million unlicensed drivers in California, thus the move to teach many of them the rules of the road and get them licensed, to make us all safer. The law, which began as a state Assembly bill, goes into effect on Jan. 1.

Despite the new law, community members and the Drive CA Coalition released recommendations at a news conference Wednesday urging the DMV to make the transition for the undocumented smoother. Participating organizations included ACLU of Northern California, the California Immigrant Policy Center, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Presente.org, Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN), TODEC Legal Center and Mujeres Unidas y Activas.

The DMV, which is holding hearings in Los Angeles and Oakland before implementing the law, is being asked to make document requirements more accessible for eligible immigrants and to add privacy and anti-discrimination protections to ensure the program's success.

"We firmly believe that all Californians stand to benefit from a successful driver's license program that meets community needs," explained ACLU staff attorney Julia Harumi Mass. "And today we are asking the DMV to retool its proposed regulations to do just that."

One requirement being challenged is possession of both a foreign passport and a consular ID, which is said to be prohibitively expensive and impossible for some. Pointing to the expected $128-per-person cost for Mexican nationals, Luis Nolasco with the Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California said, "In a place where $100 could be put towards groceries or childcare, having a passport is basically a luxury."

There are also concerns over the cost of obtaining various documents under DMV's current proposal, possible discrimination and the safety and security of personal information.

"There shouldn't be a shadow of a doubt that California's program will meet community needs when it comes to document requirements and privacy and anti-discrimination protections," said Refugio Mata, campaign manager with Presente.org. "Let's set the gold standard for the nation on driver's licenses--it's time to drive California forward on road safety."

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!



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