LOS ANGELES, Feb 9, 2016:

Some 605,000 undocumented immigrants who live in California were granted driver’s licences in 2015, the first year they have been able to enjoy that benefit, officials said on Monday.

The law known as AB60 took effect on Jan 2, 2015. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) expects a total of about 1.4 million people will get their licence under the law by late 2017.

Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed the law in Oct 2013 to give a legal document to the 2.5 million undocumented immigrants in California alone – most from Latin America and particularly neighbouring Mexico.

California officials believe the programme – which does not give licence holders any US federal benefits – does make roads in the most populous US state safer, several state sources say.

It does not allow licence holders, for example, the right to fly on airplanes inside the United States, nor does it give anyone legal residency status, the right to work or to seek a US passport.

But among the upsides are that California drivers with the document can drive legally across the entire vast United States, without being fined or facing fear of having their vehicle impounded.

“If you can approve policies that integrate immigrants, I think it’s a win-win for all people in a big state like California,” said Luis Alejo, a California Assembly Member and author of the bill.

A total of 12 of the 50 US states plus the federal capital Washington have similar driver’s licence laws for undocumented immigrants.

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