Immigrants snap up new California driver licenses

LOS ANGELES, USA – Nearly 30,000 motorists applied for driving licenses in California on the first weekend of a new law offering them to people in the United States illegally, officials said Monday, January 5.

Thanks to the 2013 bill approved by Governor Jerry Brown, California last week became the 10th state in the nation to issue them to undocumented immigrants.

Under the AB60 law, anyone who can show they are California residents – such as through bills or rental agreements – can now apply for a license, regardless of immigration status.

On Friday, January 2, 17,200 people applied for the AB60 driver's document, while over 11,000 did so on Saturday, January 3, said Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez.

Opponents fear the law will encourage immigrants to come to the United States, and worry some might use false names to register for a license, thereby creating national security concerns.

Advocates say it means more drivers will get car insurance and will make the roads safer.

Until now, immigrants in California without legal authorization risked heavy fines or vehicle seizures for driving without a license. Many do anyway, as much of the huge West Coast state lacks comprehensive public transit.

California has the largest undocumented immigrant population in the United States, about 2.45 million.

They must still provide proof of identity, such as a passport.

The state's Department of Motor Vehicles expects some 1.4 million people to request a license.

Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont and Washington state already have similar laws. –