How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Debate resumes over drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants

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Drivers fill the 110 freeway during afternoon rush-hour on January 9, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

The debate over whether to grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants is a familiar one in California. Last week, a new law kicked in guaranteeing driver's licenses for a small subset of them - young people approved for temporary legal status under the federal deferred action program that started in August.

Now, the governor of Illinois is poised to sign a measure - similar to some that have failed in California - that would let an estimated quarter-million undocumented immigrants there obtain licenses. If signed, the law would make Illinois one of four states in the country with similar policies.

It might also contribute to momentum elsewhere for broader access to licenses. In California, Assemblyman Luis Alejo, a Democrat from Salinas, is pushing a bill that would allow driver's licenses for California residents regardless of their immigration status if they pay taxes. And in Connecticut, where deferred action recipients may also obtain licenses, activists are trying to expand access for other undocumented immigrants.