The longed-for day arrived at last. The long lines of people braving the morning cold at the offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) are the first sign that undocumented immigrants can now obtain a driving license in California.
It has been a long way of more than 20 years, from the moment in 1993 when then-governor Pete Wilson enacted a de facto ban on issuing driving licenses for the undocumented, which were permitted until then. This kind of ID became a political kickball afterwards, when the Democrat ex Governor Gray Davis approved it, only to be repealed by his successor and rival, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jerry Brown finally made the license possible after intense negotiations.
This successful journey after the prohibition would have never happened without the help of former state senator and current Los Angeles councilman Gil Cedillo. His tenacity and firm convictions about the importance of the license won the legislator the respect of many but also some scorn, because of his relentless insistence in approving it even when the possibilities seemed remote. It was Senator Ricardo Lara who expertly took up Cedillo’s cause to fulfill it.
At times, Cedillo’s crusade could have been considered quixotic, but the reality is, close to 1.4 million people will be able to obtain the driving license, which means peace of mind and safety for them and for all Californians.
The license represents for the undocumented the peace of mind of being able to drive without the constant danger of losing your vehicle, among other serious inconveniences.
For the Californian drivers it means safer streets. Research show that having a license reduces accidents, and more cars will have insurance.
The collective is also reinforced when hundreds of thousands of people come out of the shadows to provide a photo, digital fingerprinting and a home address.
This is a triumph of common sense and of perseverance against hatred, fear and ignorance