Immigrant Bertha Diaz originally from Jalisco, Mexico, right, drives with her daughter Viviana Diaz, 17, without a California driving license. California would become the latest state to grant immigrants who are in the country illegally the right to a driver’s license. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Analysis: California bills point to broader inclusion of undocumented immigrants

This week the California legislature passed bills that would grant the undocumented the ability to apply for driver’s licenses and the ability to be admitted to the State Bar assuming they meet the qualifications required.

AB 60, also known as the Safe and Responsible Drivers Act , authored by Assembly member Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), was crafted to ensure that all drivers in California were properly trained, licensed and insured.

A 2012 California Department of Motor Vehicles study analyzing crash data over a 23-year period found that unlicensed and suspended/revoked drivers were almost three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.

In some localities, the undocumented felt that they were targeted in police checkpoints. Driving unlicensed made the undocumented a target for law enforcement and increased their risk for deportation.

California is home to 2.6 million undocumented people, who constitute nearly 10 percent of the state’s workforce. The state has the largest population of undocumented people in the country. celebrated the passage of AB 60, noting that it marks a historic departure from the anti-immigrant era.

“This hard-fought victory was the product of the efforts of many groups and would not have been possible without the leadership of undocumented Californians like members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance. After 20 years of driving discrimination, the passage of the bill makes an important moment in California, which is clearly moving away from the Wilson era of anti-immigrant politics,” Arturo Carmona, executive director of said.

“Most importantly, AB 60 helps protect immigrants against the terror caused by deportations by collaboration between federal, state and local governments,” Carmona added.

Governor Brown has indicated that he would sign the driver’s license bill, saying in a statement, “it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due.”

In a similar spirit of incorporating immigrants into the state, Assembly Bill 1024, introduced by Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez, authorizes the state Supreme Court to admit an applicant as an attorney in all courts upon certification by the State Bar, even if an applicant is not lawfully present in the United States. The bill cleared the legislature with a bipartisan vote.

Sergio Garcia, a 35-year old graduate of Cal Northern School of Law who passed the bar on the first attempt, was brought to the U.S. when he was 17 months from Mexico.

Earlier this month, justices on the California Supreme Court argued that federal law prohibited them from granting a license to practice law to Garcia unless the state legislature did something to permit those without legal status to practice.

For nearly a decade, the undocumented have been able to pay in-state tuition in California public colleges and universities. Legislators argued that they have given undocumented immigrants a way to advance their education but have stopped short of allowing them to begin careers.

Assembly member Gonzalez said, “By the grace of God, I was born on this side of the border…. By the grace of God, after passing the bar, I was able to be admitted to the bar. That’s not the same for those same students we promised 10 years ago that if they worked hard and played by the rules, then they would be part of society.”

Nearly 20 years ago voters in California passed Proposition 187 in a ballot initiative that prohibited the undocumented from accessing public services. The law was challenged and found to be unconstitutional. AB 60 and AB 1024, passed with bipartisan support in the California legislature, signal a trend toward incorporating the state’s immigrant population into the broader society.

Analysis: California bills point to broader inclusion of undocumented immigrants adriana maestas e1372274661894 politics NBC Latino News

Adriana Maestas is a senior contributing editor at Politic365 and one of the co-founders of the  She resides in California.

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