More than 1 million undocumented immigrants have received driver’s licenses, the California Department of Motor Vehicles announced Wednesday.
Assembly Bill 60, authored by then-Assemblyman Luis Alejo in 2013, required California DMV offices to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants as long as they can prove their identity and residence within the state. The law has led to 1,001,000 undocumented immigrants receiving licenses as of March 31 but doesn’t give the licensees carte blanche to drive outside of California or fly across state or federal borders.
“Immigrants are getting tested, licensed and insured and this is making our roads safer for everyone,” said Alejo, now a Monterey County supervisor, in a prepared statement. “Today, we see the law working the way it was intended to and has dramatically improved the lives of a million immigrants and their families.”
Twelve states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Undocumented immigrants were free to receive driver’s licenses anywhere in the U.S. until 1993, when California became the first state to restrict access and 45 others followed suit.
In 2015, the first year the law took effect, approximately 605,000 undocumented immigrants received licenses. Fewer people applied after an initial spike, and the DMV now issues about 10,000 AB 60 licenses statewide per month.
A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed hit-and-run accidents dropped in California after AB 60 went into effect, and had no discernible impact on the total number of crashes or auto-related fatalities in the state. The California Research Bureau’s required January 2018 report found no AB 60 license holders had filed complaints with state agencies alleging discrimination related to their license ownership.