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DMV releases pass/fail rates for those seeking Calif. immigrant driver's licenses (Updated)

Hundreds of immigrants crowd into the Granada Hills DMV to apply for driver's licenses on Friday, Jan. 2, 2015.
Hundreds of immigrants crowd into the Granada Hills DMV to apply for driver's licenses on Friday, Jan. 2, 2015.
Josie Huang/KPCC

The Department of Motor Vehicles has released the pass/fail rates for the first applicants seeking California driver's licenses for immigrants without legal status, and the results look better than the state average.

About 54 percent of those who took the test in English on Friday — the first day of the program — passed while 36 percent who took it in Spanish did, according to the DMV.

DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez said the statewide pass average in English had been about 49 percent and 28 percent in Spanish.

But, "we wanted [the test results] to be better because we pushed studying," Gonzalez said.

The DMV held about 200 outreach meetings with immigrants and advocacy groups, "where we let them know 'You’re going to be taking the test and you need to study for it and all the answers are in the handbook'," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez and others pointed out that the test results were better than what Nevada saw when it launched a similar licensing program for immigrants a year ago. There, about 71 percent of applicants failed the written test in the first three days.

Hoping to avoid a similar scenario, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) was among the groups that held driver's education classes in the months leading up to the program's Jan. 2 launch. Polo Morales, CHIRLA's political director, said the testing results were "better than expected," especially when compared to Nevada's program.

He said those passing the test "speaks to the amount of time that folks have been in the country." Morales added, "They know how to drive. They know the rules of the road."

Morales said those who are failing just haven't gotten the message that they need to study.

"It's an adjustment period, and it can only get better," Morales said.

Morales said that CHIRLA would continue holding driver's education classes into the new year, including five sessions this month.

To pass, applicants must get 30 out of 36 questions right.

To get a license, the applicant must also pass a road sign test in English, and a road test.

The California licensing program was created by the AB 60 law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013. The state expects more than 1.4 million people to seek licenses under AB 60 over the next several years.

This story has been updated.