Law meant to integrate immigrants is now being used by ICE agents to deport them, San Diego report shows

ICE Agents

A law that was originally enacted to help undocumented U.S. residents gain legal access to California driver's licenses is now being used to assist in their deportation, the California DMV has pretty much confirmed in a not-so direct way.

AB 60, which allows undocumented residents to drive legally in California, as well as obtain required insurance coverage, became law in 2013 after having been promoted as a form of protection for California's vulnerable residents. When passed, the law stated that information provided to obtain the special driver's license wouldn't be used "as evidence of the holder's citizenship or immigration status" or "as a basis for a criminal investigation, arrest or detention."

Joel Hernandez, an Escondido resident, claims he is a victim of the legal loophole under AB 60, after having been specifically targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) near his home in July 2018. Since moving to California at age 12, Hernandez has maintained a clean legal record, married a permanent U.S. resident and created a family of four, all legal U.S. citizens.

“I wasn’t scared of anything because I hadn’t done anything wrong,” Hernandez told the Voice of San Diego. “I didn’t have any outstanding tickets. I wasn’t in a stolen vehicle." Regardless, with a copy of Hernandez's driver's license photo and information already in hand, the ICE agents proceeded to arrest the man.

DMV colluding with ICE

This hasn't been the first case, however. During several arrests over the past year, it has been reported that ICE agents have targeted multiple residents by obtaining their information through the DMV with the help of AB 60. As of February 19th, agencies within the Department of Homeland Security, including ICE and Customs and Border Protections, have confirmed that they have access to database sharing, though "they don't keep track" of when this practice is utilized.

The DMV has since claimed that though ICE doesn't have direct access to their internal database, they and other law enforcement agencies have access to their sensitive information through two Department of Justice Programs: the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications Systems and the Cal-Pohot programs, which both share information from DMV's database…which is pretty much just a long way of saying, yes, they do have access to our database.

In response to the reports, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has stated that she will begin an investigation on reports of federal agents colluding with the DMV to arrest undocumented residents. Other local and state officials have followed suit in stating they will look deeper into the matter.