Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

California DMV to 'move forward' with immigrant driver's licenses

Courtesy of California DMV

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has finalized the look of its immigrant driver's licenses after some tweaks to the design were met with federal approval. 

"We’re on track to move forward with the design, so we can go to a company who makes the licenses for us," DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez said Friday.

The DMV plans to start taking license applications from immigrants in the country illegally next January.

The Department of Homeland Security had said an earlier version of immigrant driver's licenses did not have enough markings to distinguish it from 'compliant' licenses.  The proposed design included “DP” as in “driving privilege" on the front of the card instead of the typical "DL" for "driver's license."

On Aug. 20, the DMV presented a revised design to DHS, which included the phrase "federal limits apply." The back of the card also made it clear that the card is not to be used for "official federal purposes."

DHS officials, in a Sept. 17 response to DMV Sec. Jean Shiomoto, wrote "after careful review," the agency had decided that the new design "would satisfy the requirement that a noncompliant license clearly state on its face...that it is not acceptable for Federal purposes."

DHS officials cautioned, however, that "this finding does not represent a formal approval of the design."

For now, though, the DHS finding appeared to remove the threat of a legal showdown between the state and the federal government. And immigrant rights groups, who had advocated passionately for the initial design, expressed satisfaction with the final design. 

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles "celebrated" the DHS finding in a statement Friday:

Although DHS has not officially approved the design, DMV is confident the design has met the Real ID Act requirements and will now move forward to printing and implementation.

A coalition of immigrant advocacy organizations called Drive California also issued a statement Friday, slamming the Obama administration for "unreasonable rejection of California's initial license design."

But it added "now that a final design has been approved, it's time to move forward so that immigrant community members who've been unfairly excluded for twenty years can finally apply for a drivers license."

Immigrants in the country illegally had been able to obtain licenses in the 1980's.