NPR Story
5:12 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

Even Some Advocates Oppose Bill Granting Licenses To Undocumented

SAN DIEGO - California's legislature has passed a bill that will grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. But among those unhappy with the bill are immigrant advocates themselves.

The bill's sponsors say licensing the undocumented will improve road safety. But the licenses will include markings that distinguish them from the ones held by citizens and permanent residents.

"Marking an official document that outs those folks who are most vulnerable in our society is not the best way forward," said Christian Ramirez, who directs the Southern Border Communities Coalition. "This will provide probable cause to federal agents to detain folks, to turn them over for deportation proceedings."

Nine states plus D.C. already offer licenses to undocumented immigrants, and most physically distinguish the licenses from regular ones. Authors of the California bill say markings on California licenses will be the most discrete.

The bill also prohibits housing and employment discrimination against people who hold the licenses. Those assurances gained the support of many immigrant groups, but clearly, not all. Governor Jerry Brown has indicated he'll sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

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