LOS ANGELES — As California prepares to issue driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally, residents sounded off Tuesday on what documents should be accepted as proof of identity and residency in the state.
At a packed hearing in Los Angeles, scores of immigrants urged the Department of Motor Vehicles to expand the list of acceptable documents to include church and children’s school records, which may be easier for some people to obtain.
“As a homemaker, we don’t get a membership card or a pay stub,” said Martha Escandon, 42, whose Mexican immigrant family obtained legal papers in the 1980s. Escandon said she volunteers at her South Los Angeles church and knows many mothers who could face a hard time obtaining proof of residency to apply for a license.
The hearing is one of two scheduled by the DMV for residents to weigh in on the rules for obtaining a license starting in January. California is one of 11 states that have approved issuing a driver’s license for immigrants in the country illegally, according to the National Immigration Law Center, and California officials expect 1.4 million people will apply for the license in the first three years.
Critics railed at the hearing about the need for a secure license to prevent fraud and terrorism.
“This documentation should meet the standards American citizens should have to when we apply for a driver’s license,” said Betty Robinson, a 67-year-old retired nurse from Tustin, adding she didn’t think a document such as a Mexican consular card was a secure way to verify identity.
DMV officials limited the hearing to the proposed rules to apply for a license, which have yet to be finalized, and banned comments on what the license should look like.
Many immigrants are concerned about the appearance of the license. The Department of Homeland Security rejected its initial design because it needs to be easily distinguishable from licenses held by legal residents, which are valid for federal purposes, such as boarding a flight.
Immigrant advocates also urged the DMV to consider providing translators for applicants who speak indigenous languages and coordinate with consulates to ensure immigrants living far from major cities can get the documents they need to apply.
Several speakers said immigrants in the country illegally could not make it to the hearing from San Diego County because they feared being stopped at a freeway checkpoint.