Sacramento, CA-Immigration reform for the nation is barely alive and still facing numerous hurdles, but there is one state that is taking reform seriously, California. The state which boasts the highest immigrant population has three progressive reforms sitting on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting his signature. Once the bills become law it could send a signal to the rest of the country that broader immigration reform is not just beneficial but necessary.
The three bills waiting to be signed are: A.B. 60, which would allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, A.B. 1024, a law stemming from a California Supreme Court case which would give undocumented immigrants the right to practice law and the Trust Act, a law that would prevent deportations for thousands of immigrants.
Two of those bills, the Trust Act and A.B. 60, will have the greatest impact and benefit the most immigrants. On top of benefitting immigrants, both of these laws would also improve the overall public safety of Californians.
A.B. 60 is law that has been months in the making and would allow undocumented immigrants to legally drive in the state. This law has failed in the past, but it hasn’t kept immigrants off the roads, driving is after a necessary part of everyday life. By allowing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, the state can assure that everyone on the road has the necessary driving skills and are insured.
In a study from earlier this year, the California DMV found that fatal traffic accidents would decline by allowing the 2.5 million undocumented immigrants legal driving privileges. They estimated that several thousand fatal traffic accidents could be prevented and residents in the state would save millions in insurance premiums since insurers pass the costs of uninsured drivers onto the consumer.
A.B. 1024 was crafted after Sergio Garcia, an undocumented immigrant who graduated from law school, was denied a law license by the state bar because of his legal status. Garcia took his case to the state Supreme Court. The high court has yet to make a decision in his case, but if A.B. 1024 is passed into law Garcia and other undocumented immigrants would be allowed to obtain their law license as long as they pass the state bar exam and meet other qualifications.
Lastly, there is the Trust Act and would prevent thousands of deportations of undocumented immigrants. Local law enforcement agencies are required under Secure Communities to check the immigration status of individuals who are arrested or detained for minor or serious criminal offenses. While it is important to take serious criminal offender off the streets, the net cast by Secure Communities often ensnares and deports individuals with minor offenses such as traffic violations.
Those opposed to Secure Communities also say the law makes undocumented immigrants reluctant to come forward and report serious crimes and undermines trust in law enforcement.
Legislators in California are making steps to improve the lives of undocumented immigrants not make their lives harder. The state is demonstrating to the rest of the country that immigration reform is possible.