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Advocates unveil suggested improvements to DMV’s proposed regulations for immigrant licenses 

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Community members and members of the Drive CA Coalition released recommendations at a news conference today urging the Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) to improve proposed regulations that will make driver licenses for undocumented immigrants a reality under California’s AB 60: “The Safe and Responsible Driver Act.” The recommendations come in the lead-up to highly anticipated public hearings which the DMV will hold on the regulations next week in both Los Angeles and Oakland.

Participating organizations included ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC), the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC), California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA), Presente.org, Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN), TODEC Legal Center, and Mujeres Unidas y Activas.

Advocates encouraged the DMV 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. And today we are asking the DMV to retool its proposed regulations to do just that,” stated Julia Harumi Mass, staff attorney with the ACLU-NC.On Friday, May 9th, the DMV released proposed regulations outlining how the agency will verify applicant identity and California residency for the state’s new driver’s license law. It is expected that 1.5 million unauthorized immigrants in California will be eligible to become licensed and insured when the law comes into effect on January 1, 2015.

Reshma Shamasunder, CIPC’s Executive Director stated, “In speaking with several service-providers and members of the community, we have found that the document requirements must be improved in order to accomplish our shared goal of ensuring that all Californians can become tested, licensed, and insured drivers.”

Ms. Shamasunder and community members declared that requiring both a foreign passport and a consular ID is prohibitively expensive and impossible for some, citing the cost of up to $128 per person for Mexican nationals. “In a place where $100 could be put towards groceries or childcare, having a passport is basically a luxury,” said Luis Nolasco with the Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California.

Other community members also shared concerns over the cost of obtaining various documents under DMV’s current proposal. “It would be a decision between paying for a passport or paying for shoes for my kids,” said Etelvina Lopez, a domestic worker and member of Mujeres Unidas y Activas, who is a prospective AB 60 applicant.

Addressing community calls to ensure that all applicants are protected from discrimination, Sandy Valenciano, Northern California Coordinator with CIYJA, stated: “At the end of the day, it comes down to inspiring community members’ trust and providing them with assurance that they will not be treated differently than another driver if they get pulled over and show an AB 60 license. The draft regulations must reflect our belief that all people are created equal and should be protected from discrimination. It’s as simple as that.”

Advocates also insisted that the DMV provide assurances that people’s information will be kept safe and secure. “After hosting a few meetings with community members and the DMV, it’s become clear to us that community members have very deep-rooted fears about being treated differently for having an AB 60 license and how their information is going to be shared,” stated Priya Murthy, Policy and Organizing Program Director with SIREN Bay Area.

“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,” added 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.”

Finally, advocates encouraged community members to submit comments on the DMV’s proposed regulations. “Make your voices heard – it’s time to drive California forward,” stated Luz Gallegos, Community Programs Director for the Imperial Valley’s TODEC Legal Center.

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