Undocumented immigrants can soon apply for driver's licenses

October 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fresno's top cop is speaking out in support of a controversial bill that will give driver licenses to undocumented immigrants. AB60 was approved by the state legislature last month. The bill allows immigrants who are not legal citizens to apply for state driver licenses and the governor will be in town on Thursday to sign it into law.

Driving is an essential part of Carlos Chavez's life. He drives his son to school in the mornings and then drives to work ? all without a license. "Even if I drive cautiously, I'm always terrified that I may get pulled over," said Chavez, an undocumented immigrant who can't apply for a state license.

But that will soon change when the governor signs AB60 into law. It will enable up to 2 million undocumented immigrants to drive legally ? and the California Police Chiefs Association supports the bill. "I support having more licensed drivers on our roadway because I believe it makes our roadways safer," said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Dyer said the bill will help reduce the number of hit and run collisions that have plagued Fresno. "People that are unlicensed leave the scene of a collision generally because they know they're going to be cited for driving without a license and they're also going to have their vehicle impounded, which becomes very costly," said Dyer.

According to the department, one in three collisions are hit and run related. And during traffic DUI checkpoints, 10 percent of cars impounded are from unlicensed drivers.

But critics doubt the roads will be any safer with licensing undocumented drivers. "Someone [that] has the opportunity to get a license doesn't mean they will and if someone can't afford the insurance coverage ? you're still going to drive illegally if you're driving illegally now," said Serafin Quintanar with the Central Valley Tea Party.

Still, Dyer says the bill will help from a policing standpoint. "It's going to allow that person to feel more apart of California, more a part of our community and more likely to provide information to police, not be afraid of police," said Dyer.

Dyer will be at the signing ceremony with Gov. Brown at Fresno City College Thursday. The event will be at the Old Administration Building at 12:30PM.


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