California immigration reform: Driver’s licenses and more

California immigration reform: Driver’s licenses and more

WHILE the Federal Government wallows in its tiresome partisan war over the Budget and prepares to continue the act with the Debt Ceiling later this week, little movement can be expected on Immigration Reform.  California, however, has other ideas.  This month, Governor Brown signed legislation to enhance school, workplace and civil protections for California’s hardworking immigrants. “While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead,” said Governor Brown. “I’m not waiting.”  The new legislation is a call to arms for immigration advocates, who are rallying in cities across the United States to call on the US House of Representatives to give legal status to undocumented US residents.

Last week, Governor Brown signed AB 60, extending the driving privilege to millions of undocumented Californians, the first major immigration reform since he signed the California Dream Act two years ago. Governor Brown continued the trend this weekend, signing several bills enhancing immigrant rights. Notably, AB 4 prohibits a law enforcement official from detaining an individual on the basis of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold after that individual becomes eligible for release from custody, unless specified conditions are met.  AB 524 provides that a threat to report the immigration status or suspected immigration status of an individual or the individual’s family may induce fear sufficient to constitute extortion.  AB 1024 allows an applicant for admission to the State Bar, who is not lawfully present in the United States, to be admitted as an attorney at law. AB 1159 imposes various restrictions and obligations on persons who offer services related to comprehensive immigration reform. SB 666 provides for a suspension or revocation of an employer’s business license for retaliation against employees and others on the basis of citizenship and immigration status, and establishes a civil penalty up to $10,000 per violation.

The surge in legislative activity hit full steam on September 13, 2013, when California state lawmakers passed a bill to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain legal driver’s licenses. The issue of whether to allow California’s sizable undocumented population to obtain legal driver’s licenses had been debated for decades.  During the Schwarzenegger administration, bills passed through the California legislature only to be vetoed by the ex-Governor, who did not want to upset his Republican constituents and friends in the Federal Government by appearing too liberal on the question of undocumented immigrants.

California has joined a growing number of States allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, including Washington, Oregon, Utah and New Mexico. Now, with the passage of several additional bills advancing immigrant rights in the State, the Federal Government will have to take notice and pass immigration reform to allow for uniformity throughout all the 50 States. The message is loud and clear: “Wake up, US Congress!”

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Daniel P. Hanlon is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law and a principal of Hanlon Law Group, PC, located at 225 S. Lake Ave., 11th Floor in Pasadena, California; Tel. No. (626) 585-8005. Hanlon Law Group, PC is a “full-service Immigration Law firm.” E-mail: visas@hanlonlawgroup.com and www.hanlonlawgroup.com.

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