A new law in California allowing for undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses went into effect last January, prompting an influx of applications. Under the new law, 605,000 undocumented residents received licenses, accounting for 40 percent of all of the licenses issued last year.
Exceeding expectations, even more attempted to obtain a license: Around 830,000 undocumented immigrants have applied for a license since Jan. 2, 2015, the first day of the new policy at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The licenses are similar to the standard driver's license except they say "Federal Limits Apply" on the back.
Additional administration required forced the department to hire 1,000 temporary employees, extend office hours and open four new license processing centers, according to the Orange County Register. “This was a major undertaking and never before had the department implemented a program such as this one,” Artemio Armenta, spokesman for the Department of Motor Vehicles, told the Orange County Register.
Even with the additional resources, in the first few months of the program, many complained of long wait times and fewer available appointments.
“It certainly overloads the system,” said Ann Coil, a local Tea Party Patriots coordinator. “And, again, we’re giving priority to people who aren’t citizens. There is concern in this country, and it’s reflected in this election, that there’s more compassion for people who are not citizens than those who are.”
Illegal immigration has been a focal and dividing point on the 2016 presidential campaign trail, prompting heated exchanges between the 2016 candidates, especially in the race for the Republican nomination. GOP front-runner Donald Trump credits himself with starting the presidential candidates' campaign trail conversation about immigration reform, launching his campaign in June with the promise to build a wall on the Mexican-American border. His remarks prompted the California Senate in July to introduce a resolution denouncing the real estate mogul.
"We certainly cannot stand in California to have a president who is representing California, [which has] the largest population of immigrants, calling immigrants rapists and thugs and criminals," Sen. Isadore Hall III, D-Compton said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "We don’t have a place for that. California is a place of inclusion."