AB2189 was proposed by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) and it will let the Department of Motor Vehicles issue licenses to illegal immigrants eligible for work permits under a new Obama administration policy.
The bill allows people who are granted deferred action to apply for a driver's license and requires the DMV to accept as proof of legal residence whatever document the federal government provides to the participants in the deferred action program. With this law only one of four immigrants would qualify. They would have to be between the ages of 15 and 31, entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and been residents for at least five years.
Cedillo has long been a champion of securing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants so they can drive legally. He praised Brown for choosing "public safety over politics" by signing the bill.
"It is a victory for those who were brought here through no choice of their own, played by the rules, and are only asking to be included in and contribute to American society," Cedillo said. "I wholeheartedly thank and congratulate Governor Brown for signing this bill into law making California the first state in the nation to grant drivers' licenses to this worthy group of people."
The contentious issue has drawn praise and criticism from both sides.
"Yes, they are people, yes, were are all human beings, but we are a nation and we have laws," said radio host Tony Katz.
Some immigrant rights groups say the bill won't do enough.
"We have been pushing for some time now for a more comprehensive driver's license bill that would cover undocumented communities across the state of California, and so what we saw here, the driver's license (law) pass, it doesn't do anything in reality," said Jorge Gutierrez of Dream Team Los Angeles.