Saturday, January 3, 2015

New law allowing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants draws long lines at Long Beach DMV, protests

Long waits at the local DMV office and a protest outside the district headquarters of a powerful state senator were two of the immediate outcomes of a new law that went into effect Friday allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain California driver's licenses.

A group of "concerned citizens" are protesting AB 60 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, which allows illegal immigrants to apply for a driver's license starting FridayPro-immigration figures in the Legislature had attempted to get a law like A.B. 60 on the books for more than a decade. Reactions to the law going into effect, however, showed the policy of granting licenses to undocumented immigrants is still controversial.

Whereas state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, hailed the law as a move to enhance fairness and traffic safety, the roughly two dozen protestors outside his office denounced California's policy as a criminal violation of federal immigration law.

Fierro was one of several people who stood in a line extending out the door of the Long Beach DMV office on Friday afternoon as agency staffers processed new driver's license requests and other work. Earlier Friday morning, a DMV employee warned people waiting in line that the challenges of processing applications with the new law in effect was a key reason that they could expect to stand in line for three hours.

DMV spokesman Jaime Garza said the Legislature has appropriated $141 million to the agency to pay for the implementation of A.B. 60. The department has hired 900 new employees and expects to process 1.4 million additional license applications over the coming three years.

Garza said the new law is intended to increase traffic safety by requiring undocumented drivers to be tested for their driving ability and knowledge of traffic law. Lara, a co-author of the bill and current chair of the state Senate's Appropriations Committee, expressed a similar opinion.

"Today, California is taking a historic step forward in protecting our streets by making sure all drivers are licensed, tested and insured. Families can take their kids to school, drive to work and become more active in their communities as a result of AB60. It's a proud day for the Golden State," he said in an emailed statement.

That's contrary to the views protestors expressed outside Lara's office. Among those who spoke at a rally organized by a Claremont-based anti-illegal immigration group called We the People Rising was Dan Rosenberg of Woodland Hills.

Rosenberg said his son Drew Rosenberg was killed in 2010 in a car collision involving an undocumented driver and that he has decided based on his own research of traffic safety data that giving licenses to undocumented immigrants will not improve traffic safety.

"Breaking the law is not an excuse to break other laws," he said after delivering his remarks.

By Andrew Edwards, Press-Telegram

Source: The Press Telegram

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