Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

California DMV releases proposed regulations for immigrant driver's licenses

A California Department of Motor Vehicles customer peers into the door of a closed DMV branch July 10, 2009 in Corte Madera, California. The state Department of Motor Vehicles has released proposed regulations listing the kinds of documents that would be acceptable for unauthorized immigrants to use in order to apply for a special driver's license, set to become available in January.
A California Department of Motor Vehicles customer peers into the door of a closed DMV branch July 10, 2009 in Corte Madera, California. The state Department of Motor Vehicles has released proposed regulations listing the kinds of documents that would be acceptable for unauthorized immigrants to use in order to apply for a special driver's license, set to become available in January. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The state Department of Motor Vehicles has released proposed regulations listing the kinds of documents that unauthorized immigrants may use in order to apply for a special driver's license, under a new law that took effect in January.

The licenses are set to become available next January, although there was a setback this week when federal Homeland Security officials rejected the design.

DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez said the release of the regulations this week was already planned, and that these don't require DHS approval. But the state agency is taking input from the public, and has opened a 45-day window for public comment.

"We're really looking for public input on whether the documents we suggest can work to establish identify and California residency will actually work for people trying to obtain a license under AB 60," Gonzalez said.

Among the documents that would be considered "primary" identification:

- A valid foreign passport approved by the department

- A federal government-issued identification card with a current photograph

- A valid consular identification document approved by the department

Alternatives could include an expired foreign passport that meets security regulations or an approved foreign birth certificate. There are also "secondary review" list of documents that may be submitted, including school documents, applications for asylum, marriage and divorce documents, foreign driver's licenses and tax returns.

A DMV statement reads that the department "anticipates continually updating a list of specific documents" as they work with foreign governments to make sure certain documents - such as consular ID cards - can be electronically verified.

Applicants will also have to meet California residency requirements, using a series of records listed by the DMV.

Earlier this week, Homeland Security officials notified the agency that a prototype for the driver's license didn't pass muster under the federal REAL ID Act, saying the license must look noticeably different from standard ones, and have language on its face stating that it can't be used as identification for federal purposes.

The DMV has been under pressure from immigrant rights advocates, however, who want the license to look as similar as possible to a standard license. They're concerned that unauthorized immigrants could be singled out if their licenses look too different.

Gonzalez said there will be two public hearings during the initial comment period, including one in Los Angeles on June 24. People may also send comments by mail or send emails to LADRegulations@dmv.ca.gov.

If the department decides more input is needed before the regulations are adopted, an additional public comment period will be provided, Gonzalez said.

See the proposed regulations here.

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