Undocumented immigrants can now apply for driver’s licenses

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SAN DIEGO -- Lines formed Friday at state Department of Motor Vehicles offices around San Diego County, the first day that undocumented immigrants can apply for driver’s licenses.

With the beginning of the new year, California became the 10th state to offer such licenses to people who cannot establish legal U.S. residency.

Longtime immigration advocate Enrique Morones said all the documentation does is give the migrants a right to drive a vehicle.

Without licenses, undocumented immigrants faced hundreds of dollars in fines and the impounding of their vehicle if caught driving.

Morones' group, Border Angels, is helping to set up DMV appointments. Applicants need to be able to prove their identification, show they live in California via rental agreements or utility bills, provide a thumbprint, and pass the usual tests needed to acquire a driver’s license.

While the written test is available in several languages, the road test will be given in English, according to the DMV.

The licenses authorized by AB 60, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, will include text saying they are not valid for federal purposes, like obtaining a passport or boarding a passenger aircraft.

The DMV, which expects around 1.4 million applications, hired 900 new employees to handle the workload.

“DMV is committed to successfully implementing this new law to increase safety on California roads by putting licensed drivers behind the steering wheel,'' said agency Director Jean Shiomoto. “Californians planning to apply for a new driver license under AB 60 should study for their exams and gather the required documents for proving identity and residency.''

The DMV, which will begin Saturday hours tomorrow to handle driver’s license applications, increased the window to make appointments from 45 days to 90 days and opened four license processing centers.

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