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More than 1 million undocumented immigrants in California have received driver's licenses

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The California Department of Motor Vehicles released figures that show more than 1 million undocumented immigrants have received driver licenses in the state. Twelve states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. (Furtaev/Getty Images)

More than 1 million undocumented immigrants in California have received driver’s licenses, according to an announcement by the California Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday.

What is the background?

In 2013, state legislation was passed that requires California DMV offices to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, provided they can prove their identity and residency within California.

Since the law passed, 1,001,000 undocumented immigrants have received licenses. But that doesn’t mean they can drive outside of California or fly across state or federal borders, the Sacramento Bee reported.

California’s law first took effect in 2015. Shortly after, about 605,000 undocumented immigrants were issued driver's licenses, according to the Sacramento Bee. After the initial spike, the DMV has issued about 10,000 licenses per month to illegal immigrants statewide, the report states.

What other states do this?

Twelve states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, the report states. According to the California secretary of state website, only citizens are able to vote.

Until 1993, undocumented immigrants throughout the nation could receive driver's licenses. At that time, California became the first state to restrict access and dozens of other states established similar policies.

Immigrants who become eligible to vote have long been identified as a key factor that has increased the Democratic voting base and eroded the Republican voting base. Studies have shown that immigrants tend to vote for Democratic candidates. Although the California secretary of state purports to verify citizenship of all applicants to vote, some have raised concerns that allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses will make it easier for illegal voters to slip through the cracks.

Advocates say the number of immigrants receiving licenses is a good thing.

Luis Alejo, who authored Assembly Bill 60 while an assemblyman in 2013, said in a prepared statement, "Immigrants are getting tested, licensed and insured and this is making our roads safer for everyone."

"Today, we see the law working the way it was intended to and has dramatically improved the lives of a million immigrants and their families,” said Alejo, who currently serves as a Monterey County supervisor.

Has it increased safety?

A study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/03/28/1618991114 found that hit-and-run accidents dropped in California after AB 60 went into effect. But it had no noticeable impact on crashes or auto-related fatalities in the state.

In addition, the California Research Bureau is required to report any alleged discrimination cases regarding license ownership. As of January 2018, no complaints were filed with state agencies, according to the report.

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