San Diego

New Law Would Limit Access to Driver's License Records of Undocumented Immigrants

The proposed legislation was in response to reporting from NBC 7 Investigates and media partner Voice of San Diego.

A lawmaker is attempting to change what some call a “legal loophole” that allows immigration officials to access personal details entered in a state driver’s license program for undocumented residents. 

California’s AB-60 driver license program was labeled as a solution to the state’s uninsured motorist problem. Under the law, undocumented drivers have the ability to drive legally and acquire insurance coverage. 

But NBC 7 Investigates found some of those AB-60 drivers said sharing their home address with the CA Department of Motor Vehicles led immigration agents to their front door. 

“They asked me, is this you?” said one driver from Escondido. The driver said when ICE agents arrested him near his home, they had a copy of his AB-60 license in-hand. 

To see the original investigation, click here or watch below.

AB-60 drivers licenses were supposed to be a solution to a problem plaguing undocumented immigrants. Now the aid is being seen as a potential threat. NBC 7's Gaby Rodriguez has more.

“I was angry,” California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-80) told NBC 7. “We told people in our community, ‘Please go get an AB60 license.” 

After NBC 7 and media partner Voice of San Diego raised questions about ICE agents having access to certain DMV license records, Gonzalez began her own inquiry.

This led to the DMV responding to Gonzalez and confirming that agencies, like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), have access to certain DMV records shared with third-party law enforcement programs. 

DMV Deputy Director Sonia Huestis told Gonzalez by letter that the agency does not maintain a separate database for driver license applicants under AB 60, meaning all of the DMV’s records can be accessed by outside agencies. 

Huestis explained law enforcement, including immigration officials, can access DMV driver information through two Department of Justice programs: the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) and Cal-Photo programs. Both programs interface with the DMV’s database but the information available does not include a driver’s legal status here in the country. 

To read the DMV’s letter, click here

“What we think that they're doing is they have the [driver’s] name from a deportation order and they're accessing it to find their current address and picture,” Gonzalez said. “That will not be allowed anymore after we pass [AB-1747].” 

Assembly Bill 1747 would prohibit law enforcement agencies and the DMV from allowing personal information contained in their internal databases, including those maintained by private vendors, available to immigration agencies. 

The only information that would be available is an individual's citizenship or immigration status which is required by federal law to be shared.

If passed, Gonzalez's bill would not apply if the police needed to search for information on a driver who has an active arrest warrant. 

A spokesperson for ICE told NBC 7 the department follows all policies and procedures when requesting information for a federal investigation. 

Gonzalez’s proposed legislation is still in the committee phase. On Tuesday, the state Public Safety Committee passed the bill 5-0.

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