The California Department of Motor Vehicles announced Wednesday that more than 113,000 driver’s licenses were issued statewide in January, and more than half were to undocumented immigrants, who have been allowed to apply under Assembly Bill 60.
The latest numbers show that 59,000 eligible immigrants in the state were issued a license from Jan. 2 through Jan. 31.
AB 60, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013, allows people who are in the country illegally to apply for driver’s licenses as long as they can provide identification from their home countries.
The number of licenses issued in Department of Motor Vehicles offices in Merced County was not known as of Thursday as data had not been broken down by region or county, DMV officials said.
Agency officials have said they expect to issue about 1.4 million licenses in the first three years of the law’s implementation.
Merced resident Rosa Cervantes, 33, is one of the thousands of AB 60 driver’s license applicants. Thursday, she stood outside the Merced DMV office as she waited to take her behind-the-wheel test.
Cervantes said she has driven without a license and sees this opportunity as long overdue. “This is like taking a load off – one less thing to worry about,” she said. “Right now, I’m nervous, but I’ll be excited once I pass my test.”
Cervantes said driving is not a luxury for her; she needs a license to get to work, take her children to school and doctor appointments, and to run errands.
She said she has not had any problems or setbacks throughout the application process. “There are some long waits, but that’s expected,” she said.
Another AB 60 beneficiary, Rafael Ibarra, 40, of Winton, said he received his driver’s license in the mail about 15 days ago. Thursday, Ibarra – no relation to the reporter – was accompanying his wife, who was also taking her driving test at the Merced DMV office.
Ibarra works as a mechanic, repairing and selling used cars. His earnings depend on him driving, he explained. “Cars are like my merchandise – if a car gets taken away by police because I don’t have a license, that’s my merchandise and my money being taken away.”
But he does not have to worry about that any longer.
Ibarra said he started the application process in early January. He failed his written exam the first time around, but passed his driving test on the first try. He found the written exam difficult because of the translation. “It’s not written in the everyday Spanish we speak at home,” he said. “It’s tricky.”
He said friends and family members who are not accustomed to using computers or touch-screen devices have had a hard time with the written exam. He believes it would have been easier to take the exam with paper and pencil.
The data released by the DMV also showed the following:
▪ 113,172 noncommercial licenses were issued to new applicants in January, compared with 74,028 noncommercial licenses issued in January 2014.
▪ 236,000 AB 60 applicants started the application process in January.
▪ 362,000 written tests were administered to AB 60 applicants.
▪ 67,000 driving tests were administered to AB 60 applicants.
▪ The passing rate for the written exam for all new applicants, including AB 60 applicants, was 48 percent. For the driving test, the passing rate jumped up to 67 percent.
Sun-Star staff writer Ana B. Ibarra can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or email@example.com.