Beginning January 1, 2015, the California DMV is implementing new driver’s licenses to accommodate foreigners who are in the U.S. illegally. The effort is to bypass the U.S. Federal REAL ID Act, which requires in part that all State DMV’s across the country must conduct an immigration check (valid SSN) prior to issuance of an official driver’s license.
Generally, there is no Federal ID for use inside the U.S. (Passports are for international travel not inside the U.S.) In this situation, the Federal Government has traditionally accepted State issued driver’s licenses and ID cards for Federal matters such as air travel and entering Federal buildings.
The REAL ID Act was passed in May 2005 to restrict the use of state issued ID cards. Driver’s licenses must now comply with federal rules. Basically, the Federal Government can restrict how State ID is used for federal matters. Travel by plane in the U.S. is governed by federal rules. The REAL ID Act does not, however, affect how states want to use ID cards for state purposes such as driving a car, so this is where California AB 60 comes into play. On October 3, 2013, Governor Brown signed into law California Assembly Bill 60, which allows issuance of California driver’s licenses to all residents of California, regardless of immigration status so long as applicants can pass the driving test. The licenses will state “Federal Limits Apply”.
What are the Federal limits that apply? Most importantly, the federal Transportation Security Administration is responsible for security checks at airports, so these new California cards would not be valid for travel on commercial planes. Instead, a traveler can use a valid passport as a substitute ID. For example, if someone from Mexico wants to fly within the United States, a valid Mexican passport can be used to travel domestically. Without any ID at all, an airport screener must further investigate to identify the traveler.
Anyone who carries the new driver’s license is very likely illegal since the license will state on its face, “Federal Limits Apply.” That marking strongly indicates an AB 60 driver’s license. Even so, part of AB 60 requires that police officers in California not discriminate based on immigration status or the fact that the driver holds an AB 60 driver’s license. Of course, this leaves open the question regarding discrimination outside California.
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