California may become the first U.S. state to grant driver’s licenses to some undocumented immigrants.
On a mixed day for pro-immigrant advocates, Governor Jerry Brown late Sunday (September 30) signed into law legislation directing the state Department of Motor Vehicles to grant licenses to illegal immigrants who qualify for the federal government’s “deferred action,” program, which grants temporary legal status to some undocumented immigrants brought into the U.S. as children.
As many as 450,000 undocumented Californians may qualify for licenses under the law, its backers estimate.
“It is a victory for those who were brought here through no choice of their own, played by the rules, and are only asking to be included in and contribute to American society,” Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, the bill’s Democratic sponsor, said according to the Associated Press.
With Brown’s signature on the legislation, Cedillo fulfilled a 10-year-old promise to his wife, a community activist, as she lay dying of cancer.
“She made me promise. It became my mission,” he told the Los Angeles Times earlier this month.
But the victory came on a day when pro-immigrant groups saw a setback on another front. The governor vetoed legislation that would have protected some undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Under the so-called Trust Act, widely referred to as “Anti-Arizona” legislation, California would have opted out of parts of a federal program requiring law enforcement officials to check the fingerprints of people arrest against a database of people living in the country illegally.
Tens of thousands of people nationwide have been detained for deportation under the “Secure Communities” program. That includes about 72,000 Californians, 70 percent of whom have no criminal convictions or have committed only minor offenses, according to the bill’s sponsor.