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Watchdog: Accountability

Lawmakers target immigrant driver's license scams

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Photo - Assemblyman Isadore Hall, Compton, left, and Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, smile as Hall's measure prohibiting California state government departments from selling or displaying items with an image of the Confederate flag was approved by the Senate  Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif.  The bill, AB2444, which excludes non government employees and businesses from the ban, to avoid violating constitutional free speech protections now goes to the governor. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Assemblyman Isadore Hall, Compton, left, and Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, smile as Hall's measure prohibiting California state government departments from selling or displaying items with an image of the Confederate flag was approved by the Senate Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif. The bill, AB2444, which excludes non government employees and businesses from the ban, to avoid violating constitutional free speech protections now goes to the governor. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Legislation sent to the governor's desk Tuesday intends to crack down on people who try to make immigrants pay unnecessary fees for driver's licenses.

Under a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year, California will start issuing licenses to immigrants in the U.S. illegally in 2015.

Immigration advocates and police officials say scammers have responded by charging immigrants up to $1,000 to help obtain licenses that are not even available yet. Some scammers even posed as state officials and lawyers, according to the San Jose Police Department.

The bill, AB852, by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, slaps a $2,500 penalty on those who try to profit from filling out applications. The state Assembly on Tuesday approved his bill on a 64-9 vote with no spoken opposition.

Once the forms are final, the California Department of Motor Vehicles plans to offer free help, including translators, to immigrants applying for the licenses. Dickinson says the bill would help stop the perception that third-party agents and extra fees are necessary to obtain driver's licenses.

"This bill is vitally important to protect those who are most vulnerable and at risk of being taken advantage of," said Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, who authored the original legislation creating the driver's license programs.

The special licenses can be used as proof of identity, but not as work authorization. People born in the U.S. who do not have their birth certificates also would be able to apply.

Also Tuesday, lawmakers sent the governor the following bills:

— AB2189 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, which would mandate suicide-prevention training for mental health professionals starting in 2016. It would set one-time training requirements for licensed psychologists, social workers, family therapists and counselors. It would require 15 hours of training for new professionals, and six hours of continuing education for those already licensed. Some professional groups opposed the bill, saying that not all professionals specialize in areas where they deal with suicidal clients. It passed the state Assembly on a 50-9 vote.

— SB1135 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, which prohibits forced sterilizations of female inmates in California for birth control, except in cases where the patient's life is in danger or it is needed to treat a medical condition. It also requires a second physician to consult with a patient about the effects of the procedure. It comes after a report last year by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that female inmates at two California prisons underwent forced sterilizations as recently as 2010. It passed the state Senate on a 33-0 vote.

— AB1447 by Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, which adds traffic signal synchronization to the list of infrastructure projects that qualify for state funding under California's global warming law, AB32. It passed the state Senate on a 34-0 vote.

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Associated Press writer Juliet Williams contributed to this report.

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