After years of setbacks and strong opposition, the state Legislature approved the license bill and the governor is ready to sign it.
The Assembly voted 55-19 to approve AB60. The vote came after the Senate also passed it on a 28-8 vote. It now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. The governor issued a statement indicating he would sign it into law.
"This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally. Hopefully, it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due," said Brown.
The approval on the final day of this year's legislative session was a surprise. The author of AB60, Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo of Watsonville says California's roads would be safer.
"I think it's imperative that all individuals regardless of who they are, where they come from, pass a test, have insurance, is regulated by the state, have a state identification card. I think it's going to put all our communities in a much safer place," said Alejo.
This has been a hotly debated issue for years. There is strong opposition to the measure.
Don Rosenberg, whose son was killed by an unlicensed driver, testified against passage of the bill. Rosenberg says there is no evidence that allowing undocumented residents to get licenses will make the roads safer.
"They're bad drivers in their countries of origin and in New Mexico, which did exactly what California is doing. They gave out licenses, fatalities went up, collisions went up," said Rosenberg.
Some immigrant-right groups question an amendment added to the bill calling for special markings to distinguish the document from traditional licenses.
"This is a step in the right direction. We do not like some of the provisions. But we're not allowing perfection to be the enemy of progress, and that's how we see this bill," said Joseph Villela with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
The bill could allow some 2 million people in California to drive legally by allowing immigrants with proper identification to apply for a license. Several other attempts had passed the Legislature only to be vetoed by previous governors.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.