SACRAMENTO (AP) — Immigrants in the country illegally who fraudulently obtained a California driver’s license before it was legal won’t get a new card until state authorities review their driving records.
The Department of Motor Vehicles this month started issuing special licenses to people who cannot prove their legal presence in the country. Immigrant advocates say some applicants who previously held licenses under Social Security numbers that were not their own have been told they will need to meet with a DMV investigator.
Armando Botello, a state DMV spokesman, said Tuesday that such applications are being checked against the agency’s databases to prevent duplication and to ensure drivers don’t have outstanding traffic tickets, unpaid fees or criminal activity associated with older licenses. The same review applies to other drivers, he said.
“The only problem they could face is if their license has been used to commit any other crime,” Botello told The Associated Press after a news conference about the licenses in Sacramento.
It’s unclear what consequences applicants would face if state reviews did turn up evidence of criminal activity, such as identity theft. Botello said those cases would be handled on an individual basis.
Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed legislation in 2013 to allow immigrants to drive in a program designed to improve road safety and make immigrants’ lives easier.
The state expects to receive 1.4 million applications for the licenses over the next three years. The DMV issued about 10,000 licenses in the program’s first week.
Immigrant advocates have urged applicants who previously used someone else’s Social Security number to obtain a driver’s license to check with a lawyer before applying.
Advocates say they have seen a handful of cases where immigrants who previously had licenses were told they would need to meet with a DMV investigator to complete their applications.
Immigration attorney Patricia Corrales said three of her clients who went to DMV offices to apply for the licenses were frightened after they were told they needed to sign an affidavit acknowledging fraud.
“It is kind of contrary to the whole purpose” of the new law, which is to encourage more drivers to be licensed, Corrales said.
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