California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is bracing for a massive increase in demand when it begins issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants starting Jan. 2.
The agency has hired close to 900 new workers, expanded its hours and opened four new field offices in order to deal with the more than 1 million applications that are expected from illegals.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation authorizing the change
in October 2013, and since then, state officials have been urging residents who are illegally in the country to apply for driver’s licenses.
After the DMV recently ran telephone banks together with Spanish-language television stations such as Univision and Telemundo, "the calls were just pouring in," DMV spokesman Artemio Armenta told the Sacramento Bee.
Many of the questions deal with the documents people may use to establish their California residency and their identity so they can obtain a license.
Acceptable documents include foreign identification cards, birth certificates, utility bills and mortgage documents, school records and "faith-based documents" such as a letter from a church. Matricula consulars – Mexican consular cards – can also be used in order to prove a licensee’s identity in California thanks to a lobbying campaign by Mexican officials.
If someone cannot provide documentation, then he or she may come in to the agency for an interview. Once an applicant’s identity is deemed legitimate, they must pass a written examination and a road test.
These could prove problematic for many of the applicants. Close to 75 percent of Spanish speakers fail on their first attempt to pass Spanish-language tests.
Advocates told the newspaper that part of the problem is that some illegal immigrants are poorly educated. Another problem, they say, is that words such as "curb" and "trailer" may have "different meanings throughout Latin America," The Bee reported.
"Some of the words being used are not quite translating to the majority of Spanish-speaking Mexicans," said Apolonio Morales, political director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
"Although language and education vary, it’s not so much so that folks can’t pass a basic test or won’t understand road signs. Those are things you can learn even as an adult," Morales said.
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