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LOS ANGELES (AP) — While California officials are hashing out the details of what documents immigrants in the country illegally will need to obtain a driver's license, some are questioning whether they should even apply for one.
One key question is what the new license will look like. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security rejected the card's initial design because it needs to be easily distinguishable from driver's licenses held by legal residents, which are valid for federal purposes, such as entering U.S. buildings or boarding a flight.
"It's a decision that is still difficult for me to make," said Patricia Soriano, 46, who cleans houses in Escondido, when asked if she'll seek the new license. "We want to be sure we're not going to be discriminated against."
The Department of Motor Vehicles is holding a hearing Tuesday to take public comment on the proposed rules for obtaining the licenses, which will be issued in January. The state expects 1.4 million people to apply in the first three years.
California is one of 11 states that have approved issuing a driver's license for immigrants in the country illegally, according to the National Immigration Law Center. State officials want immigrant drivers to apply for the license to be sure they're trained, tested and insured.
While the hearing aims to discuss the documents immigrants will need to prove identity and state residency, some immigrants said a bigger concern is the license's appearance. The DMV is currently negotiating the license's design with federal homeland security officials, said Armando Botello, an agency spokesman.
Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said his organization has met with 200 immigrants who plan to apply but are concerned about the license's design and being able to obtain the required foreign documents, such as a passport.
Some fear a distinct license could make them a target for discrimination and want to ensure their personal information won't be released to federal immigration authorities.
Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who opposed creating the license, said issuing them to drivers lacking legal status undermines California's existing license and encourages fraud.
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