California

Getting Driver's License is “Big Weight Off My Back” for Undocumented Immigrant

Juan Carreno was one of 46,000 people to apply for a license under California's AB 60 law.

Juan Carreno has been waiting for this moment for 11 years.

Along with thousands of other undocumented immigrants, he applied for a California driver's license on January 2, the first day of under state law AB 60. Carreno didn't hit any speed bumps and on Thursday left the DMV able to drive legally for the first time.

"It's a big weight off my back, driving with my license, and I'm really happy -- I can't express," Carreno said.

1.4 million undocumented immigrants are expected to get their licenses over the next three years under AB 60, according to state projections. Just over 46,000 applied between Jan. 2 and Jan. 6, according to the state DMV.

First they have to pass written, vision and driving tests -- just like any other prospective driver.

Last week, Carreno arrived at the DMV at 4 a.m. in order to be one of the first in line to take the written and vision tests. He didn't leave until 9 hours later, taking with him an appointment for his driver's test Thursday.

After wiping the sweat from his brow, the nervous 27-year-old took the test in a Prius he borrowed from a friend. Thirty minutes later, a handshake from the examiner confirmed he passed.

"I get to drive to work by myself," Carreno said. "My wife takes me now and we have to wake up the kids early in the morning, like at 5, get them out in the cold."

He's lived in California since he was 5 years old, attended public schools and works full time, but he is not yet a citizen. That has some people opposed to AB 60.

"They're entitled to an opinion but I feel if everybody gets their license, there will be a lot more safe drivers out there," Carreno said.

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