California governor signs bill allowing some illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses

[JURIST] California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] on Sunday signed [press release] a bill [AB 2189, PDF] that will allow some illegal immigrants who came to the US as children to obtain state drivers licenses. Specifically, the legislation will amend the state's driver's license regulations to make hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants eligible to drive legally in California if they qualify for a new federal work permit program. In essence, the law directs California's Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver's licenses to people who do not have a social security number but can prove they are authorized to be in the US under federal law [Orange County Register report]. Though a previous version was signed into law in 2003 by former governor Gray Davis, the legislature quickly repealed it following Davis' departure from office. The current version, authored by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo [official website], has received support from several Republican congressmen and is believed to be in line with the Obama administration's policy directive [memorandum, PDF; JURIST report] known as Deferred Action, which halts deportation proceedings against some illegal immigrants who came to the US as children. Likewise, the directive also allows illegal immigrants who entered the US before the age of 16 and who are now 30 or younger, in addition to other criteria, to obtain work permits.

The California State Assembly [official website] approved the bill in August 31, only two days after the Senate [official website] first approved it. Despite California's latest initiative, however, immigration laws [JURIST backgrounder] remain a hot button issue in many states. In September lawyers for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer [official website] announced a plan to appeal a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] currently blocking the provision of the controversial Arizona immigration law that criminalizes the harboring and transportation of illegal immigrants. In August, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach [official website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the Deferred Action policy directive. Earlier that month, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] partially struck down [JURIST report] Alabama and Georgia's immigration laws, but upheld other provisions. Also in August, Utah's Attorney General argued that the state's restrictive immigration law should be upheld [JURIST report] in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Arizona v. United States [opinion, PDF; JURIST report].

 

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