More than 600,000 undocumented immigrants received drivers licenses in California last year, the first year they were eligible. They represented almost half of all new drivers licenses issued in 2015.
Under Assembly Bill 60, which went into effect on Jan. 2, 2015, anyone who meets other requirements does not need to show proof of citizenship to get a license. Advocates say the change means that more people are getting tested before they're behind the wheel.
“One year after AB 60 implementation there are 605,000 more drivers on the road who have passed all testing requirements and demonstrated their knowledge of California’s rules of the road,” state DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said in a statement.
In order to handle a spike in applications, the DMV opened four new processing centers and hired 1,000 temporary employees to register new drivers.
The huge numbers show a demand from undocumented people to drive legally. Across the nation, 12 states allow undocumented immigrants to get licenses. That means about 37% of undocumented Americans are eligible, according to a Pew report.
Judith Benitez, who stood in line for a license on the first day the law went into effect, told the Los Angeles Times that she feels safer with a real form of identification.
"It was an extremely emotional time because having a [driver's] license isn't just any little thing," she said. "We feel a little more protected."
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.