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Voices on immigrant driver's license debate: 'They deserve it'

Illegal ImmigrantsImmigrationJustice SystemJerry Brown

A legislative deal reached late Thursday to allow many more immigrants who are in the country illegally to obtain California driver's licenses was greeted positively by those who said the law would help the economy and make roads safer.

The bill requires a special mark and notation on the licenses, the initials DP (driver's privilege) instead of DL (driver's license). The notation would say the document "does not establish eligibility for employment or public benefit."

Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill, which he said will “enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally.”

On Friday, Robert Shirkey of Los Angeles agreed.

"They deserve it," Shirkey, 54, said. "It also puts money into the economy, I'm all for it."

The bill, AB 60, by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), originally would have provided licenses to immigrants who could show that they pay taxes or otherwise work in the United States. But it was changed to ask the Department of Motor Vehicles to determine what documentation would be required.

"In a perfect world we would have no mark on our driver's license," said Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). But, he added, "there are hard-working immigrants who need driver's licenses to do the basic things many of us take for granted."

Others on Friday said the new law would also hold immigrant drivers accountable when they are involved in traffic accidents, noting there would be less of a reason to flee the scene of a crash. It would also make it easier to identify immigrants who are in the county illegally, they said.

"I'm all for it as long as they get insured and they passed the [driving] test," said Terry Cohen, 57, of Carson.

Still, some people didn't think all immigrants were going to rush to the DMV.

Sandra Hernandez, 29, of Lawndale said those with a criminal history or those who are being sought by authorities will probably avoid getting driving permits altogether.

"It will be useful for people that want to drive to work and don't want a problem with the law," Hernandez said.

Regardless of what immigrants decide to do, Rita Voldase, 55, said the law was deserved.

"I don’t have a problem with it all. Everyone deserves equal rights, even illegal immigrants," Voldase said. "We're all humans."

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

Twitter: @latvives

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