Successful First Year of Undocumented Immigrant Licenses in California

In 2015, well over 600,000 people received California drivers’ licenses under AB 60, the law that allows the DMV to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants (CA Vehicle Code, sec. 12801.9).  2015 was the first year of the law’s implementation.  The AB 60 licenses look different from other licenses because the words “federal limits apply” are shown on the front of the license.  The card cannot be used for federally regulated purposes, such as passing through TSA airport screening, or verifying identity to federal law enforcement.

While the licenses cannot be used to show that someone is legally authorized to work in the United States, a worker, nonetheless, has the right to present an AB 60 driver’s license as an identity document during the I-9 process.  The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued updated FAQ’s to employers about driver’s licenses like those in California that state “federal limits apply.”  An employer who refuses to accept the AB 60 driver’s license or asks a worker for more or different documents may be violating the federal immigration anti-discrimination provisions and/or federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination based on race or national origin.  An employee who chooses to present an AB 60 driver’s license to prove identity during the I-9 process would still need to present an acceptable document demonstrating that he or she is legally authorized to work in the United States.  Note also that presenting an AB 60 driver’s license, along with other information, might result in an employer considering that the employee is not authorized to work.

AB 60 also includes anti-discrimination protections making it illegal for business and housing establishments to discriminate against individuals who hold the AB 60 license.  (Cal. Civil Code, sec. 51.)  It is also illegal for an employer to discriminate against a person because the person holds or presents an AB 60 driver’s license—unless possessing a driver’s license is required for the job by law or is required for some other lawful purpose by the employer. (Cal. Gov’t Code, sec’s. 12940, 12926(v).)  Law enforcement may not use the AB 60 driver’s license as evidence of the holder’s citizenship or immigration status.  In addition, the AB 60 license cannot be used as a basis for a criminal investigation, arrest, or detention in circumstances where a person with a driver license that was not issued under AB60 would not be criminally investigated, arrested, or detained.

These discrimination protections are enforced, just like other California-specific discrimination laws, by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

For further background on AB 60 licenses, you can read Weinberg Roger & Rosenfeld’s October 2014 Labor Law Update about AB 60.  For more information on AB 60 implementation, visit the California DMV website at, or contact your immigration or labor counsel.

By Xochitl Lopez | January 20, 2016

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