Until this year, Carlos Barajas, an undocumented “dreamer”, constantly drive with his eyes peeled behind the wheel, scanning the road for cops.
While most drivers might fear getting a ticket, a stop for Barajas meant getting his car towed, and losing his means for work.
“So driving without a drivers license, very stressful,” Barajas said. His family came to the U.S. Illegally from Mexico when he was three. For years now, drove to work and school illegally.
“Even if you know you’re going to break the law, you have to do what you have to do. If you have to go to work and make some money, then you have to do it,” Barajas said.
He doesn’t face that issue any longer, however, now that he has a legitimate drivers license. His parents are also among the nearly 400,000 undocumented Californians who have became legal drivers as a result of AB 60.
“To get nearly 400 thousand ppl through that process in the first 6 months is outstanding,” said DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzales.
The DMV normally doesn’t take a position on legislation but Gonzales says AB 60 just made sense.
“We knew there were people out there driving, they had to get to work, hey had to get their kids to school and so this was a great opportunity for people to not be scared behind the wheel and to legally have that license, that driver privilege,” said Gonzales.
“There was always a thought like, is this for real,” said Yamilet Valladolid, director of El Concilio, a nonprofit that works to empower undocumented immigrants.
Valladolid worked with undocumented drivers to help with training and test prep. She says her classes filled up quickly and says the state is better off for having trained drivers on the road.
“They’re buying better cars, they’re paying for insurance, they’re driving a lot better obviously because now they know the laws and regulations,” said Valladolid.
Now drivers like Barajas only have one thing to worry about.
“The only thing that bugs me is traffic, that’s pretty much it,” said Barajas.
That’s a roadblock that’s not going away any time soon.
The DMV encourages undocumented immigrants who haven’t gotten their driver’s licenses to do so. The DMV expects one million more undocumented people to become legal drivers within the next two years.