ACLU Supports Drivers Licenses for Immigrants, Urges Vigilance

Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 60: The Safe and Responsible Driver Act. Starting in January 2015, California residents who learn the rules of the road and pass a driving test will be eligible to obtain a driver’s license regardless of immigration status. The Safe and Responsible Driver Act is an important step forward for over one million undocumented drivers who live in California. Allowing people to earn a driver’s license regardless of immigration status is a practical and long-overdue step that improves road safety for all Californians.

“Since 1993, community members driving to work or school have been subjected to wrongful traffic stops, costly car impoundments, and sometimes even arrests and deportations simply because they were denied access to driver’s licenses due to their immigration status,” said Julia Harumi Mass, Staff Attorney for the  ACLU of Northern California. “Hardworking immigrants need driver’s licenses to do the basic things we all take for granted like going to work, church or school,” added Mass.

The ACLU is very concerned, however, that the new licenses for individuals who cannot prove legal status will carry a distinguishing mark on the front and the back of the license.

“For years the ACLU has advocated that driver’s licenses without any distinguishing marks would provide the strongest safeguard against civil rights violations. As California works to implement AB 60, the ACLU of California will work to ensure that law enforcement agencies do not use these marked licenses to facilitate the arrest and deportation of people who exercise their right to drive lawfully,” said Hector Villagra, Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California. “We are committed to working with other stakeholders within the regulatory process and will vigilantly monitor AB 60’s impact on vulnerable communities.”

“To protect against potential discriminatory practices, the ACLU of California also calls on the Governor now to sign AB 4 (the TRUST ACT), a bill that is currently on his desk that  sets clear, uniform standards to law enforcement regarding who may be subjected to prolonged detention in local jails based on federal immigration detainer requests,” said Norma Chavez Peterson, the Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

“Governor Jerry Brown has said that he hopes AB 60 will ‘send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due.’ The ACLU urges Congress and the President to follow California’s example and work to enact long-term solutions that will help all immigrants participate fully in their communities,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, a Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Photo by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez.

Photo by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez.


The ACLU of California is comprised of three affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union: the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, the ACLU of Northern California, and the ACLU of Southern California.

The ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, founded in 1987, is dedicated to expanding and enforcing the civil liberties and civil rights of non-citizens and to combating public and private discrimination against immigrants.