Over half a million undocumented immigrants living in the United States obtained California driver’s licenses in 2015 after pro-immigrant law AB 60 was implemented, the LA Times has reported. These immigrants now have documentation that enables them to purchase car insurance and legally drive, along with other benefits.
Those who support the new law claim that it aids immigrants who have previously been tangled up in the contradictory push-and-pull of federal law and labor demand; however, critics of AB 60 say that giving undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses is facilitating illegal immigration and possibly providing further incentives.
The state of California has more undocumented immigrants than anywhere else in the United States; in addition, it has the most such immigrants who are legally allowed to hold a driver’s license. 13 other states in the country also issue licenses to undocumented immigrants. Applications for driver’s licenses increased considerably after AB 60 was passed into law in 2015, with around 605,000 of last year’s 1.4 million new driver’s licenses obtained by undocumented immigrants.
With no clear federal policies with regard to immigration, states are now fighting their own battles. Officials in Arizona are now approving new punishments for convicted criminal immigrants, while the legislature of Mexico is considering changing its pro-immigrant policy for driver’s licenses.
California’s policy has incensed some, who believe the system is being overloaded. “There is a concern in this country, and it’s reflected in this election, that there’s more compassion for people who are not citizens than those who are”, claims Tea Party Patriots coordinator Ann Coil Santa Ana.