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As many as 400,000 undocumented immigrants living in California may be eligible for driver’s licenses under legislation signed yesterday by Governor Jerry Brown on the last day for him to sign or veto over 100 measures approved by the legislature this year.

Assembly Bill 2189 extends the opportunity to obtain a license to those covered under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows those brought into the country at a young age who have completed or are completing their education and have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more minor misdemeanors to remain in the country without immediate fear of deportation.

Under the law, Deferred Action documents would be added to a list of documents acceptable to the DMV to verify legal presence in the United States, a condition of obtaining a driver’s license. The bill is expected to apply to fewer than one in four undocumented immigrants currently residing in the state.

Proponents of expanded licensing say such a move can be expected to improve road safety conditions, as licensed drivers will have proven the ability to safely operate a vehicle and are more likely to purchase insurance. Detractors argue that since a license is often used as a primary form of identification precautions should be taken to limit their distribution.

Expanded licensing, if it’s widely embraced by those eligible, could put a damper on so-called “DUI/Driver’s License” checkpoints frequently conducted throughout the state. A report released earlier this year found that “checkpoints more often result in citations for unlicensed motorists or for those with suspended or revoked driver’s licenses than for alcohol-related offenses.”

Past Reader coverage of checkpoints throughout the county confirm the findings of the reports locally. Though at $58 the release fee paid to local law enforcement for an impounded vehicle is on the low end of the scale charged around the state, the awarding of lucrative towing contracts with private providers remains a hotly contested issue.

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