Two new state laws take effect in 2013 that allow some undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses and in-state tuition at public universities.
Under the Deferred Action program announced by President Obama last August, undocumented immigrants younger than 30 and without a criminal record can apply for deportation relief and a work permit.
And now, they can also apply for a California driver's license. Armando Botello with the Department of Motor Vehicles says the agency is expecting most immigrants who qualify for Deferred Action to apply.
“Normally, on any given year, the DMV handles about 8 million transactions regarding driver’s licenses," he explains. "And it is estimated that under this bill there will be around 350,000 more people who will benefit.”
Undocumented immigrants who don't qualify for the federal Deferred Action program are barred from applying for a California driver's license. Only three states allow undocumented immigrants to have a driver’s license: New Mexico, Utah and Washington state.
Last year, Governor Brown also signed the California Dream Act into law, making it possible for undocumented students in the state to apply for financial aid at public colleges and private universities. And in the New Year, hundreds of immigrant students without papers will qualify for in-state tuition charges and be able to get a mix of private scholarships and state financial aid. Altogether, that will cut their higher education costs by almost two-thirds.
In an effort to help students navigate the system, the California Student Aid Commission has been leading an aggressive outreach effort aimed at high school counselors, parents and college admissions personnel.
“There is assistance from public sources, meaning from public taxpayer money, at the University of California, at the California State University, and at California’s community colleges," says Bryan Dickason, a manager with Cal Grant. "So for the first time, financial aid will be available for this student population.”
The California DREAM Act was sponsored by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo. Aides to the Los Angeles Democrat say the new law could cost anywhere between $22 million and $42 million, although roughly $13 million of that would come from money already set aside for low-income students.