19 members of Congress urge approval of driver’s license design

Rep. Tony Cardenas

Campaign reports show that Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles) has spent $306,470 of his reelection fund on legal services from five area firms.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Nineteen Democratic members of Congress from California have signed a letter asking the Obama administration to rescind its rejection of a design for a driver’s license to be issued to up 1.5 million people in the country illegally.

“We encourage you to exercise flexibility in implementing the law, and approve the design approved in AB 60, to help California enhance public safety on its roads and highways,” said the letter, whose signers included Reps. Juan Vargas, Xavier Becerra, Loretta Sanchez, Janice Hahn, Tony Cardenas, Alan Lowenthal and Gloria Negrete McLeod.

The letter was sent to Jeh Johnson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which recently rejected a proposal to issue a new driver’s license with the initials DP for “driver’s privelege” instead of DL for “driver’s license” on the front. California has proposed a notation on the back indicating the license cannot be used for federal purposes.

Homeland Security officials said the notation needs to be on the front and the design or color of the license should be different from the one issued citizens so it can be easily distinguished.


The members of Congress said that with so many people expected to get the new license, “it should not be difficult to train federal officials to recognize the distinctive marks on the California licenses.”

Backers of the California have warned that making the licenses too different could subject those who hold them to discrimination. The members of Congress said the immigrants need to be protected “from bad actors and criminals that thrive on exploiting others.”

Federal officials are continuing to work with their counterparts in California to come up with an acceptable document, according to Marsha Catron, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security. “In accordance with the REAL ID Act, driver’s licenses or identification cards provided to persons unable to meet the requirements in the law, must be clearly distinguishable and easily discerned from the compliant cards,” she said in an email to The Times. 

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