California is home to nearly three million illegal immigrants which is a substantial 25 percent of the entire illegal immigrant population in the United States. More than half of the state’s residents are immigrants or children of immigrants, with Latinos making up the largest ethnic group. Until several months ago when the DMV began issuing Driver’s Licenses to undocumented immigrants, the undocumented population in California had to worry about potential stops and arrests and tangling with the immigration system every time they got into their cars. Now months after the program went into effect, many in the state are applauding the program as it is a key step to integrating into the economy a huge part of the workforce. In the first six months of this year, more than half of the new driver’s licenses issued by California went to undocumented immigrants. DMV predicts that they will issue nearly 1.5 million licenses to undocumented immigrants within three years.
With Obama’s executive actions on immigration being held up and Congress unable to get anything done on immigration, California has at least achieved several helpful measures that benefit the integration of the millions of undocumented immigrants. In addition to the DMV program, several recent legislative measures include the ability to receive financial aid and student loans to attend state universities and they also can get approved to practice more than 40 professions, including law, architecture and dentistry. While critics are quick to point out that the DMV program interferes with federal policy, a January poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that nearly 65 percent of the state’s residents see immigrants as a net benefit to the state.