On Thursday, the state Department of Motor Vehicles held a hearing in Oakland on Assembly Bill 60, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in October granting illegal aliens a right to a California driver’s license. For those at the hearing who questioned the new law’s validity, Brian Soublet, the DMV attorney said, “You’re in the wrong venue. That ship has already sailed.”
For those who favor the new law, which has until January 2015 to be fully initiated, getting their license will be a day of celebration, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Maria Distancia, 45, has been driving without a license for more than ten years. She claims that she trembles with nervousness while traveling through cites like Alameda, known for its strict enforcement of traffic laws. Current law penalizes license violations with vehicle impoundments and up to $1,000 in fines. Maria opined that the new law will stave off fears of being deported and “brings us confidence and peace of mind… protection so we’re not afraid to drive.”
Immigrant advocates came from across the state to voice their opinions on the final rules for the new law. Cries for cheaper license processing fees and easier access to processing centers were called for at the hearing. Moreover, the News reported that by January 1, 2015, new DMV offices will emerge and 1,000 new government employees will be hired to handle the huge incursion of illegal immigrants seeking licenses.
Distancia, a caregiver and housekeeper, says she fled Mexico to free herself from poverty. She had been travelling to her jobs by bus until an incident occurred where she and her daughter were harassed during one trip. She decided to risk driving without a license, and by doing so she could take on more jobs, affording her the ability to live in the expensive Bay area. “To clean houses, you need a car,” she said. “You can clean three houses a day instead of just one.”
At the hearing, which took place at the Caltrans auditorium, farm workers, claiming that the new law will give them the ability to follow crops from one part of the state to another, argued for easier and less complicated driving tests. Additionally, they lobbied for less stringent documentation to prove they live in California. One construction worker who came to California from Honduras spoke at the hearing, saying the law will change his life: “We’ll be able to drive to get to work, drive our kids to school, and if there’s an emergency, get to the hospital.”