For Maricela De La Rosa, a parishioner and member of the social justice ministry group at St. Martha Church in Huntington Park, 2015 couldn’t come soon enough. Thanks to AB 60, this new year will bring the fulfillment of a long-held wish for several family friends and members of her parish community. The new law requires the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to begin issuing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants after Jan. 1.
AB 60 was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2013. Authored by California Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas), the bill was supported by the state’s police chiefs and insurance commissioner because it will ultimately result in more drivers who have passed all state-required driving tests on the road.
To apply for a license, immigrants must show proof of California residency (via utility bills, rental agreements, etc.), but do not need to provide a Social Security number. They must also prove their identity (by presenting an acceptable passport or identification card from their country of origin), have their vision checked, pass both written and behind-the-wheel tests, and pay a $33 DMV fee. In addition, car owners licensed under AB 60 will be required to obtain liability vehicle insurance.
“Public safety is strengthened for everyone because people will need to be tested and qualify for a driver’s license, and they will also [need] to buy liability insurance,” explained Jaime Huerta, associate director with the archdiocesan Office of Life, Justice and Peace. “Parish communities also see this as an important step for so many people (800,000 in the Los Angeles area, according to DMV estimates) to benefit from having a license and being able to drive legally.”
According to Huerta, the archdiocese has provided volunteer training sessions for parish leaders from 80 different churches in all five pastoral regions. The parishes then commenced offering free AB 60 public information sessions and/or hands-on workshops (for guidance on acceptable documents required to apply, how to fill out the DMV forms, study suggestions, practice exams, overviews of the newest DMV technology and procedures and more).
Part of the goal, explained Huerta, is to impede opportunistic profiteers who are attempting to take advantage of the new law by charging for what are normally free services, such as DMV forms and driver handbooks, as well as offering to book their free DMV office appointments for a fee.
“This is part of the work of the Church — an evangelization effort to bring the parish closer to the people, and the people closer to their parish,” he said.
“Parish leaders have a lot of energy and interest in working with people in their parishes … to address very real needs in their communities,” Huerta told The Tidings. “They see how much fear and distrust is out there, and yet realize that people [do] trust the Church and their own parishes.”
De La Rosa is among the numerous parish leaders who are doing their part to help make a difference within their parish and local communities by volunteering to assist during upcoming workshops to educate people about AB 60.
“I think it’s a good way to help the community, especially because this is a community of underprivileged and underrepresented people who are going to benefit from this law,” she said. “I’m excited to let people know about this.”