SACRAMENTO — Illegal immigrants who qualify for a federal work permit under a new Obama administration policy could obtain a California driver's license under state legislation introduced Friday.
The federal program provides a two-year reprieve from deportation to people younger than 31 who were brought to the United States illegally before the age of 16. The Department of Motor Vehicles has said it appears they would be eligible for driver's licenses, although it put off a final decision until officials verify that the federal documentation meets California's licensing requirements.
Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) said he introduced his legislation to address that issue. Under AB 2189, any federal document received by a person granted deferred action under Obama's program would be acceptable as proof of legal presence for the purpose of applying for a California driver's license, Cedillo said.
"We want to clarify that these young people who will be here on deferred status will be able to qualify for a driver's license," Cedillo said in an interview.
"Since they are here legally, and we let them go to school with scholarships and we let them work here and live here," he said, "we should let them drive legally."
About 350,000 people in California could benefit from the federal program, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.
Cedillo drew criticism from Barbara Coe, president of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which opposes relaxation of laws for people in the country illegally.
"He is just showing contempt for our laws,'' Coe said. "By definition, illegal immigrants are criminals violating federal immigration laws. This is just rewarding them for violation of our laws.''