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California will now issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants 

Amid the national traffic jam of attempts for comprehensive immigration reform, advocates for undocumented immigrants in California have collectively inched forward a bit.

Under AB 60, passed in the 2013 legislation session, undocumented immigrants who meet eligibility requirements will be able to obtain a California driver’s license. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will begin the process with scheduled appointments on Jan. 2. According to DMV media relations officer Jessica Gonzalez, Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget allocates $141 million to support the AB 60 program, creating several new positions in DMV offices across California, including the addition of three new employees to the San Luis Obispo field office and two new employees to the Paso Robles field office.

Four processing centers for first-time drivers have also been opened, including one in Lompoc. These centers will process both immigrants and first-time drivers seeking licenses. Other DMV field offices will process new licenses as well, requiring appointments to kick off the process. In order to obtain a driver’s license, applicants must present valid identification and proof of residency and then pass a vision and driver’s license knowledge test, at which point they’ll receive a permit to practice driving before returning on a later date for a formal driving test.

“The whole point of AB 60 is for people to know the rules of the road, to get tested, and to become safer drivers,” Gonzalez told New Times.

The DMV expects approximately 1.4 million new applicants over the next three years. So far, sources have reported that the two DMV field offices in San Luis Obispo County are already fairly booked up and have few available appointments, reflecting a widespread interest among undocumented immigrants in California who are eager to satisfy requirements and obtain a legal driver’s license.

Whether this new process will slow down the already notorious process of waiting in line at the DMV is yet to be seen.

“We always suggest making an appointment because it makes the difference between 15 minutes and who knows,” Gonzalez said.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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