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VCT analysis:
When the legal residency requirement was introduced, driver's licenses issued in Los Angeles dropped by 10%. This is why Solis is fighting to eliminate it. She wants illegal aliens to get driver's licenses.

If this bill is adopted, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens will get driver's licenses, making it almost impossible to screen for employment and other benefits open only to legal residences

"An analysis completed by the California Research Bureau, however, indicates that while the total number of driver's licenses has increased in raw numbers, the ratio of driver's licenses as compared to the overall population, labor force, and non K-12 population shows an actual decline." (SEE BELOW)




Bill No: SB 371

Senator KARNETTE, Chair Author:


Analysis by: Randall Henry


SUBJECT: Issuance of driver's licenses and identification cards.

DESCRIPTION: This bill would repeal the requirement that every applicant for an original driver's license or identification card submit proof of legal residence.

ANALYSIS: Existing law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (department) to require every applicant for an original driver's license or identification card to submit satisfactory proof that the applicant's presence in the United States is authorized under federal law. {u This bill u} would repeal that requirement. Existing law requires the department to issue a 90-day temporary driver's license to a legal, nonimmigrant driver's license applicant who has successfully completed an application and the related requirements for the issuance of a driver's license. {u This bill u} would repeal these provisions.


1. The author contends that the current law "is an excessive inconvenience that affects the efficiency of foreign national business executives who are LEGALLY residing in California. The state law conflicts with SB 371 (SOLIS) Page {u u} existing federal forms and timeline for verifying valid residence and results in the necessity to reapply for a driver's license as often as twice a year." In addition, the author argues that the current law is unnecessary because other state and federal programs are in effect that adequately detect undocumented immigrants. According to the author, there are some 95 state regulations, involving nearly 40 state agencies, that require the verification of immigrant status in some form or another.

2. The provision requiring applicants for driver's licenses to produce documentation of citizenship or legal residence was enacted in 1993 by Senate Bill 976 (Ch. 820, Statues of 1993, Alquist), and it was designed to make the driver's license a more secure form of identification with the intent of preventing undocumented immigrants from being licensed or obtaining identification cards. The sponsors asserted that the driver's license was a "breeder" document which is used to acquire other documentation and qualifying status for a variety of public services and programs. They further contended that it would improve the uninsured motorist problem, reduce fraudulent applications for government programs, discourage undocumented immigrants from operating a motor vehicle, and generally act as a deterrent to illegal immigration.

3. Since March 1994, the department has required applicants for an original driver's license to submit documentation that satisfactorily substantiates that the applicant's presence in the United States is authorized under federal law. The department has approved a variety of birth verification/legal presence documents that applicants can submit for this purpose. When an applicant submits a specified document, it is reviewed for acceptability and authenticity by a department field office technician.

For verification of Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) documents submitted by immigrant applicants, the department has direct access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program, an electronic intergovernmental information-sharing system provided by the INS to ensure that only legally entitled aliens receive government benefits. The SAVE system is updated monthly. SB 371 (SOLIS) Page {u u}

4. When a SAVE inquiry is initiated and the submitted documentation does not match a record in the system, the department initiates a secondary verification by submitting the photocopied documents to INS for verification. The department reports approximately 180,000 documents annually are submitted for secondary verification. In light of the large number of documents requiring additional verification, a significant number of applicants have experienced processing delays. The applicants requiring further verification are issued temporary licenses, and the issuance of the actual license is provided when the INS verification is completed.

5. For a legal, nonimmigrant applicant the department is required to issue a temporary driver's license, valid for 90 days and which can be extended for an additional 120 days, if the applicant has completed the license application but INS verification has not been completed. Once an INS match is completed, a license is issued for the period of time the applicant is authorized to remain in this country. As chairperson of the Subcommittee on Asia Trade and Commerce, the author has pointed out the concerns regarding applying for a driver's license raised by a number of Japanese nationals who have been temporarily assigned to work in one of the many subsidiaries of Japanese companies located in California. She contends that a large number of these applicants have had their temporary licenses expire prior to certification, greatly inconveniencing them and their firms. She asserts this reflects negatively on a state that aggressively strives to be a global trading center.

6. The bill raises the controversial and sensitive public policy issue of what steps should a state, particularly a state with a large undocumented population, take to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving certain government services. It also brings into question whether an agency whose essential role is the licensing and regulation of motorists should be involved in the verification of citizenship and immigrant status. If the overriding goal is to test and license as many drivers as possible and encourage the widespread use of liability insurance in order to improve public safety, the current law may forestall that effort. The federal Census Bureau estimates SB 371 (SOLIS) Page {u u} the number of undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S. at approximately 5 million, with about 40 percent in California.

7. Citizenship and immigrant status verification has now been operative for five years, yet there is little or no documentation evaluating the effectiveness of this program. Colorado is the only other state that presently requires citizenship verification for driver's license purposes. The department reports there has not been any decrease in the number license applications over this period, perhaps an occurrence that might have been expected had the law been effective, and it indicates the number of applications that are rejected as a result of citizenship verification is reportedly very low. Nor is there even any approximate indication on how many undocumented immigrants may have been discouraged from applying in the light of the
existing verification requirements. An analysis completed by the California Research Bureau, however, indicates that while the total number of driver's licenses has increased in raw numbers, the ratio of driver's licenses as compared to the overall population, labor force, and non K-12 population shows an actual decline.

8. In addition, the costs for this activity to the department have been substantial. When the verification process was inaugurated in 1994, the department estimated that first-year costs of the program would be $1.5 million, with annual ongoing costs of $1.2 million. Funding for this activity has been provided from existing department resources, and no additional funding by the state or reimbursement from the federal government has been provided. The department is required annually to submit a supplemental budget report "detailing the costs of verifying the citizenship or legal residency of applicants for driver's licenses and identification cards, in order for the state to request reimbursement from the federal government." To date, no such report has been submitted.

9. Since 1995, the driver's license is required to include the following notice: "This license is issued as a license to drive a motor vehicle; it does not establish eligibility SB 371 (SOLIS) Page {u u} for employment, voter registration, or public benefits." The driver's license, however, remains a very desirable document for the purpose of establishing personal identification and transacting business.

10. Prior to the enactment of the 1993 legislation, the department required an applicant for an original license to simply provide documents verifying the applicant's birth date (birth certificate, passport, or military identification card) and the social security number. Unfortunately, these documents can fairly easily be forged. The department indicates that it will return to the previous verification requirements if this bill is enacted, although it eventually intends to inaugurate a process for the verification of social security numbers in conjunction with the federal government.

12. If the Committee decides to approve this bill, it may want to repeal several other related sections (Sections 12800.5, 12801.7, and 14610.7 of the Vehicle Code).

POSITIONS: (Communicated to the Committee before noon on Wednesday, 3/31/99)

SUPPORT: California Chamber of Commerce California Manufacturers Association California Teamsters Public Affairs Council Japanese Chamber of Commerce 189 letters from individual firms and corporations

OPPOSED: None received. 4/1/99