Advocates in California preparing early for 'AB60'

By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Jun 19 2014 02:56 PM | Updated as of Jun 19 2014 10:56 PM

LOS ANGELES - In less than 6 months, immigrants who don't have legal status will be able to legally drive in California and advocates are now getting ready for it.

'AB60' was signed into law by Governor Gerry Brown in October 2013 and will take effect in January of 2015.

Advocates like Anthony Ng said there is close to half a million undocumented Asians living in California.

Until Ng got his driver's license, the President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, his daily school, work and advocacy was difficult to navigate.

"I preferred to take the metro because I was so scared to be pulled over, I would be arrested or whatever. My brother, when he wasn't a US citizen yet and he had an expired driver's license he got pulled over and had a bad encounter with the police. I was so scared of having that same experience I decided to take a two hour metro bus rather than having a one hour drive," Ng of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice said.

California's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is now going through a public comment period as it considers how to initiate the new law.

Ng said with the application process expected to be similar to basic driving requirements, it's time to prepare.

"We encourage people, or members of our community to renew their passports if they have the ability to. We know there's some process in that and some difficulties but were trying to make sure it's accessible as possible within the AB60 context. As well as making sure you're able to renew your residency here in California you have tax returns, bank accounts or folks who have names in utility bills those things you can use," he said.

Several states have laws that allow undocumented immigrants to drive legally. However, federal law requires the licenses to look different from the standard state driver's licenses for federal security reasons.

While, the ability to drive legally is welcomed by immigrant rights advocates, some are proceeding with caution, asking for assurances.

"We encourage the DMV to add provision to ensure that AB60 licenses are treated like any other California driver license by law enforcement officers and agencies," said Julia Harumi Mass, Senior Staff Attorney of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

After the DMV's public comment period ends this month, it will host a series of town hall meetings throughout the state hoping to hear suggestions on how to finally begin this new law.