LOS ANGELES – The Drive California Coalition, comprised of a broad range of civil and immigrants’ rights organizations, applauds members of California’s Congressional Delegation for urging U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson to approve the California driver license proposed by the legislature in AB 60: “The Safe and Responsible Driver Act.” The license is carefully designed to protect against discrimination and comply with federal law.
Congressman Juan Vargas, Representative for California’s 51st Congressional District and author of the letter sent to DHS, stated: “At its core, this is a public safety issue. The fact of the matter is that all Californians stand to benefit from the successful implementation of California’s new driver’s license program for immigrants. Our roads will be much safer when all Californians understand the rules of the road, are trained, tested, licensed and insured.”
Nineteen members of California’s congressional delegation signed Congressman Vargas’ letter, including Congressman Xavier Becerra and Congressman Mike Honda.
The letter is a response to DHS’s inexplicable rejection of California’s design for its driver license program, since AB 60 was especially written to comply with the REAL ID Act of 2005. Under AB 60, the drivers licenses would have a marking on the front reading “DP,” instead of the traditional “DL.” Additionally, the back of the license would clearly state: “NOT FOR OFFICIAL FEDERAL PURPOSES.”
Advocates maintain that California’s good faith effort to comply with federal law and discourage discrimination must be respected.
“Immigrants are already primary targets for scams, discrimination, retaliation and extortion by unscrupulous individuals,” said Luis Nolasco of the Justice for Immigrants Coalition in San Bernardino. “We’re talking about people’s very real fears of being targeted during simple, everyday interactions like applying to rent an apartment, going to the grocery story or returning an item at the mall.”
In accordance with Representative Vargas’s letter, advocates agree that the issue calls for more flexibility on DHS’s part.
Jazmin Segura of Educators for Fair Consideration in San Francisco said, “It should not be difficult to train federal officials to recognize the distinctive marks on California licenses. Does DHS really have so little faith in the ability of TSA employees to distinguish a license with the statement ‘not for official federal purposes’ from one without?”
Priya Murthy of Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network stated: “We call upon DHS to respect the protections California has established, which carefully balance complying with the REAL ID Act and ensuring the greatest protections for community members.”