California Congressmembers Push Back on DHS over Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants


SAN DIEGO – The Drive California Coalition, comprising a broad range of civil and immigrants’ rights organizations, applauds members of California’s congressional delegation for urging U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson to approve the California driver’s license proposed by the legislature in AB 60: “The Safe and Responsible Driver Act.”  The license is carefully designed to protect against discrimination and comply with federal law.

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San Diego & Imperial counties’ Congressmember Juan Vargas, Representative for California’s 51st Congressional District and author of the letter sent to DHS, said, “At its core, this is a public safety issue. The fact of the matter is that all Californians stand to benefit from the successful implementation of California’s new driver’s license program for immigrants. Our roads will be much safer when all Californians understand the rules of the road, are trained, tested, licensed and insured.” Nineteen members of California’s congressional delegation signed Congressman Vargas’ letter (see full list, below).

The letter is a response to DHS’s inexplicable rejection of California’s design for its driver’s license program, since AB 60 was especially written to comply with the REAL ID Act of 2005. Under AB 60, the driver’s licenses would have a marking on the front reading “DP,” instead of the traditional “DL.”  Additionally, the back of the license would clearly state: “NOT FOR OFFICIAL FEDERAL PURPOSES.”

Advocates maintain that California’s good faith effort to comply with federal law and discourage discrimination must be respected. “Immigrants are already primary targets for scams, discrimination, retaliation and extortion by unscrupulous individuals,” said Luis Nolasco of the Justice for Immigrants Coalition in San Bernardino. “We’re talking about people’s very real fears of being targeted during simple, everyday interactions like applying to rent an apartment, going to the grocery story, or returning an item at the mall.”

In accordance with Representative Vargas’ letter, advocates agree that the issue calls for more flexibility on DHS’s part. Jazmin Segura of Educators for Fair Consideration in San Francisco said, “It should not be difficult to train federal officials to recognize the distinctive marks on California licenses. Does DHS really have so little faith in the ability of TSA employees to distinguish a license with the statement ‘not for official federal purposes’ from one without?”

Priya Murthy of Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network stated, “We call upon DHS to respect the protections California has established, which carefully balance complying with the REAL ID Act and ensuring the greatest protections for community members.”


About the Drive California Coalition

Drive California is comprised of a wide range of civil and immigrants’ rights organizations working to ensure to successful implementation of California’s landmark drivers’ license program for immigrants. Members include, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (AAAJ-LA), the American Civil Liberties Union of California (ACLU-CA), the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Council on American-Islamic Relations California (CAIR-CA), Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC), Justice for Immigrants Coalition in San Bernardino (JFIC), Pacific Institute for Community Organization (PICO), Presente, the Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN), and TODEC – Training Occupational Development Educating Communities.

Members of California’s Congressional Delegation Who Signed On to Rep. Vargas’s Letter

  • Rep. Juan Vargas (51st CD)
  • Rep. Xavier Becerra (34th CD)
  • Rep. Julia Brownley (26th CD)
  • Rep. Tony Cárdenas (29th CD)
  • Rep. Judy Chu (32nd CD)
  • Rep. Sam Farr (20th CD)
  • Rep. Janice Hahn (44th CD)
  • Rep. Mike Honda (17th CD)
  • rep. Jared Huffman (2nd CD)
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (13th CD)
  • Rep. Alan Lowenthal (47th CD)
  • Rep. Doris Matsui (6th CD)
  • Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (35th CD)
  • Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (40th CD)
  • Rep. Loretta Sanchez (46th CD)
  • Rep. Adam Schiff (28th CD)
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (15th CD)
  • Rep. Mark Takano (41st CD)
  • Rep. Mike Thompson (5th CD)