A Cautionary Tale of AB 60 in the New Immigration World


Yesterday’s column on the door being open to much broader actions on deportation contained an interesting anecdotal incident that we had learned from last week.

The Vanguard was forwarded the following information regarding ICE in Davis:

“Apparently, last week (an individual) went to the DMV in Davis to 1) pay for a ticket he had gotten and 2) apply for a drivers license.

“Sunday morning, 6am, ICE officials in plain clothes, driving a black truck, knock on his apartment door. He doesn’t know his rights. They take him away. Before they do, they demand to see the papers of his girlfriend in the apartment.”

The Vanguard has now learned that the individual involved had two DUI warrants with failures to appear.  Naturally that triggered ICE to investigate once he went to the DMV, because he had multiple arrest warrants.

Basically the person was unaware that, by applying for an AB 60 license, it would trigger the system and he would be easily located and picked up.

The ACLU put out a good fact sheet on people’s rights with an AB 60 Driver’s License.  Given the heightened state of alert and that ICE will be even more vigilant than before, this information is critically important.

The AB 60 Driver’s License is a valid California driver’s license, however it has distinguishing features.  On the front it states, “federal limits apply.” It will also state on the back, “not acceptable for official federal purposes.

The law “prohibits state or local agencies or officials, or any program that receives state funds, from discriminating against you because you hold or present an AB 60 license.”  But that only protects from state or local agencies, not federal or other states’ agencies.

The fact sheet states, “This means your AB 60 license should be accepted by state and local law enforcement in the same way as any other state issued license or identification would be accepted. This includes acceptance for the purposes of citations and arrests, whether you are driving or not.

“State and local law enforcement officers are prohibited from using an AB 60 license to consider your citizenship or immigration status as the basis for criminal investigation, arrest or detention.”

But the Fact Sheet cautions:

  • “You may be at risk when presenting your AB 60 license to a law enforcement officer in another state, depending on the laws and policies of that state.”
  • “Do not attempt to use your AB 60 to enter restricted areas of federal facilities, pass through TSA screening, or verify your identity to federal law enforcement officers, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).”
  • “When talking to or in front of law enforcement, anything you say can be used against you – don’t talk about your immigration status, citizenship, when or you came to the US, or where you’re from.”

The following is a fact sheet from the ACLU…

Making the right decision for you

Some benefits of getting an AB 60 license include:

  • Being trained, tested, licensed and insured will help protect you, your family and the broader community by increasing safety on our roads.
  • Having a license will help ensure that you are not ticketed or arrested for driving without a license, and that you do not risk having your vehicle impounded for this reason.
  • Your license can also be used to identify yourself to state and local law enforcement for citation and arrest purposes when you are not driving.
  • State and local law enforcement (including your local police, sheriffs and highway patrol) cannot use your AB 60 license to make assumptions about your immigration or citizenship status.

Your immigration history, including any prior contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or prior deportations or deportation orders, is not a factor for eligibility for an AB 60 license.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE, however, are federal law enforcement agencies, and may have access to some of the information you give the DMV. The DMV can respond to requests from DHS if DHS is looking for someone, and will provide information including name, address and photo. This means that if ICE is already looking for a specific person, getting an AB 60 license may put that person at more risk of being arrested.

The risks of applying

According to recent announcements from President Obama, undocumented immigrants who meet any of the following criteria should be particularly concerned that ICE may be looking for them:

  • Convictions for a felony, gang-related activity, three or more misdemeanor offenses, or a “serious” misdemeanor (e.g. DUIs, domestic violence assaults, being sentenced 90 days in jail).
  • The new immigration enforcement priorities are available here.
  • Reentry without inspection after January 2014.
  • Reentry after previous deportation.
  • Outstanding order of removal or prior deportation order.

It is a personal decision whether or not you should apply for a driver’s license, based on your individual situation and needs. While having an AB 60 license can protect you from being arrested for not having a license (and possibly referred to ICE), if you are in one of the categories above, you should consult with a licensed and trusted attorney before you apply for a license.

Use caution

If you obtained a California Driver’s License in your own name in the past using false information (a social security number that was not issued to you, false documents, etc.) or bought a license when you weren’t eligible for one, the DMV is likely to know about this when you apply for an AB 60 license and you could be denied an AB 60 license or get in legal trouble if the DMV decides to involve law enforcement in the situation. Consult with a licensed and trusted attorney if this is a concern.

If you have outstanding traffic tickets that you received in your own name, regardless of whether you were licensed or not, you will need to pay those tickets before being issued an AB 60 license. Visit the DMV offices to obtain your driving record.

After you get your driver’s license

Remember that everyone has rights – regardless of your immigration status. Learn more about your rights with an AB 60 license and inform yourself about consumer issues for AB 60 license holders.



About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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4 thoughts on “A Cautionary Tale of AB 60 in the New Immigration World”

  1. Tia Will

    This comment is a bit off topic since it does not deal with AB 60 directly but I think is relevant due to the functioning of ICE.

    I want to alert Vanguard readers about two executive orders made by POTUS just prior to the Muslim flight ban. These orders effectively end the practice of “catch and release” which might seem desirable until you realize that what this means is that all these detainees ( regardless of criminal activity or none) will have to be housed at taxpayer expense. Then realize that what this will mean is contracts with private prison systems who will be profiting from incarceration of the innocent as well as those guilty of crimes.


    Especially note sections 5 a-c.

      1. David Greenwald

        If someone is in favor of using some government programs, one wants to make sure that money isn’t unnecessarily wasted on unnecessary programs.  There is nothing inherently contradictory about that viewpoint.

  2. Tia Will


    In that observation, I suspect that I am far from alone. I suspect that you also have preferences for where your tax money would be spent. What you do not seem to have picked up on is that I also consider mass incarceration inherently morally wrong. People seeking nothing more than a better life for themselves and their children do not need incarceration as long as they are law abiding, they need the chance to prosper just as we have had.

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