On Jan. 20, 70 community members attended the Azusa Library’s community forum on Assembly Bill 60, The Safe and Responsible Drivers Act. The act, which came into effect Jan. 1, gives residents of California the opportunity to apply for a driver’s license regardless of their immigration status.
The event was part of the library’s new Inspired Citizenship program, which aims to help local adults prepare for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services interview of citizenship and to promote civic engagement. Drive California, a statewide coalition of immigrants’ rights advocates, helped facilitate the event with one of its policy directors, Ana Garcia, leading the presentation.
“We had a great turnout. We did community outreach to get people here. … We really want to focus on preparing them for the test,” said Ethan Villa, citizen specialist for Azusa Library.
The presentation provided crucial information on how to apply for a license and prepare for the written test plus allowed an opportunity for those attending to ask questions about the process. The library also offered study materials and is helping create study groups to help make sure applicants are prepared once they make their appointment at the DMV.
“The information was easy to get through. … I was glad to be here [because] I didn’t know about the tests before,” said Maria De Lourdes Sanchez, an Azusa local.
According to Villa, about half of those at the event had already made their DMV appointments, but they haven’t prepared for testing, which has proven to be one of the biggest challenges in securing a license. AB 60 dictates that the written and driving tests are given in English, and that applicants are allowed only three attempts.
Isaias Vargas, one of the applicants, stated he was “excited” and had already made an appointment to get his license but “didn’t know about studying” for the written test beforehand.
Drive California and the DMV shared that many problems are arising in the process for applications. During the event, Garcia explained how scams have cheated people out of money for study materials and supplies that will supposedly help them pass the test. There also have been complications based on individuals’ forms of identification or using fraudulent licenses in the past.
“I think people are here because they have a lot of questions,” said Cathay Reta, Azusa Library’s adult literacy coordinator.
Reta also remarked that the library might host a similar event in the future to continue educating people on AB 60.
Those who receive the new AB 60 license will notice that unlike a standard California license, theirs is marked stating, “FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY” in the top-right corner of their card. There will also be a statement on the back of the card that it is “not valid for official federal purposes.” While these licenses will be distinguished from others, laws prohibit any discrimination against a person because he or she holds an AB 60 license.
Drive California and local communities like the Azusa Library are continuing to work to help see the success of AB 60 with immigrants. The U.S. Census indicates that 33 percent of Azusa residents were born outside the country. An estimated 750,000 to 1,000,000 undocumented immigrants live in Los Angeles County.