More than 1 million illegal immigrants in California have obtained restricted driver's licenses since the program began more than three years ago the Department of Motor Vehicles announced on Wednesday. Officials hailed the number as a major milestone for a program that's long been met with skepticism. Supporters of the law like Jorge-Mario Cabrera say they expected this kind of response.
"We always knew that Californians who do not have documents in the country, are nonetheless actively participating in our economy and driving on our roads," Cabrera said.
The law, AB 60 went into effect in January of 2015 and required the DMV to issue driver licenses to any applicant who can prove their identity and residency in California, as well as meet any and all test criteria. The CDL would be issued to anyone, regardless of whether they were able to demonstrate they were in the country legally.
The DMV originally estimated that around 1.4 million illegal immigrants were on the road before the law passed in 2014.
Supports like Cabrera say the roadways have become safer by requiring the driving test and provides less motivation for drivers who are afraid of being deported from fleeing the scene of a traffic accident.
"Having a license means safer roads for everyone - not just for the immigrant families," Cabrera said.
The DMV says it issues about ten thousand licenses to illegal immigrants every month. The law passed after years of fierce debate. Critics at the time said the law would legitimize illegal immigration and make it easier for them to remain in the country.