Maria Cruz walked into her first SIREN leadership development meeting last spring, unacquainted with other members in her community and not up-to-date on policy issues affecting immigrants like herself and her family. However, on January 6 of this year, Maria walked confidently into the San Jose DMV office ready to apply and test for a California driver license.
Under the new AB 60 law, which went into effect on January 1st, undocumented California residents, like Maria, are now able to obtain driver licenses so long as they pass the required tests, and provide adequate proof of identity and California residency.
Maria prepared for the test for weeks by studying the practice exams and road sign guides provided by the DMV, and on that day, Maria missed just two questions on the driver license written test. She was able to bypass the “behind the wheel” test because she has a valid AB60-like license from the state of Washington that she obtained while she was previously living there, and will receive her official California driver license in a few weeks. Maria used her Mexican consular identification card to prove her identity and submitted a copy of her home utility bill to show proof of California residency.
Maria is relieved that she can now drive without fear and plans to buy a nicer, more reliable car to carry out daily activities in confidence. By applying for the AB 60 driver license, Maria is complimenting the work she is doing with SIREN, advocating for policies like AB 60 that improve that lives of immigrants and benefit the entire community.
“This is such a big victory for immigrants,” she says. “And we need to take advantage of the rights we have won.”
As a member of SIREN’s leadership development program, Maria has been heavily involved in helping immigrant communities in Santa Clara County prepare for AB 60 implementation through community education and advocacy. Last October, Maria participated in her first press conference when she spoke on the 1st anniversary of the signing of AB 60 alongside, the bill’s author, Assembly-member Luis Alejo.
Maria first came to the United States from Mexico with her husband in November of 1997 and settled in the Seven Trees neighborhood of San Jose, where she and her husband started their family and raised their three children. Now, thanks to her advocacy on this issue, Maria, has one less thing to worry about when she drives her kids to school and runs her daily errands. And she is happy to know that the streets will be safer for her family with more licensed drivers on the road.