Federal authorities have rejected California's proposed design for a driver's license for immigrants in the U.S. illegally, saying it is not distinguishable enough for security purposes from permits given to citizens.
The Washington officials want the license to state clearly on its face "that it is not acceptable for official federal purposes" and to have a design or color that differentiates it at a glance from other licenses.
The current design does not differ from other California licenses except for a subtle mark on the front and a disclaimer on the back in small print: "This card is not acceptable for official federal purposes."
Officials said Tuesday that the decision by the
The activists consider conspicuous markings to be a kind of scarlet letter. They and others say such marks could lead to mistreatment.
"Covering the fronts of licenses with this information that Homeland Security is demanding would subject the holders to unnecessary discrimination and possible harassment," said state Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles).
Leaders of the Latino Legislative Caucus called on California's congressional delegation Tuesday to demand that Homeland Security officials reconsider.
The decision "is disappointing and troubling," said a statement by Sen.
"We strongly believe that the design submitted by California satisfies the intent of the law, by including a distinctive mark on the front, and the required statement on the surface of the license," they said.
They wrote to Homeland Security Secretary
"As you know, immigrants are statistically more likely to be the victims of crime and are often primary targets for scams, discrimination, retaliation and extortion in encounters with a diverse set of unscrupulous actors," the lawmakers wrote.
For that reason, the California design is meant to provide "adequate protections for vulnerable community members from discrimination," they said. Approval of the California design, they argued, would be "confirming that DHS will not exploit the program for immigration enforcement purposes."
State Senate leader
Meanwhile, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will go back to the drawing board, said Armando Botello, a spokesman for the agency.
"The DMV will continue to work vigorously with lawmakers, affected communities and federal officials to design a license that complies with federal law and allows over a million undocumented California residents to drive legally and safely on state roads," Botello said in a statement.
He refused to release a copy of the new license design.
In addition to the disclaimer on the back, the proposed license has the letters DP ("driving privilege") on the front instead of DL ("driver's license").
The Real ID Act approved by
The letter is dated May 1 and was released by the DMV on Tuesday.
"Clearly national security demands our state not assist in hiding people who reside here illegally," Anderson said.