Newsletter Vol II #3

pic34It seems the Chinese horoscope was right. 2013, the year of the snake, has been a year of constant mystery and change. We have wondered if the country’s economic recession is really over, if we are really starting another war in Syria, and if immigration reform will really happen. But not everything has been a mystery. We also saw favorable changes such as a rise in home values, a drop in unemployment, the federal government recognizing same sex marriages, and California becoming the 10th state to issue drivers licenses to undocumented individuals.

Law Offices of Jonathan Dunten has also experienced positive changes in 2013. We bought an office building, moved our operations to Oakland, and replaced our legal assistant. It was sad saying goodbye to Lourdes after 3 years of faithful service, but when one chapter ends another begins. Meet our new legal assistant Ms. Lizette Franco! Besides having a positive and pleasant attitude, Lizette also has a big heart. For several years, she has volunteered at La Comunidad Unida where she tutored low-income families and Napa Emergency Women’s Services where she helped run the shelter. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies from the University of California Santa Cruz. Lizette is perfectly bilingual in English and Spanish and is waiting to take your next call.

Before 1993, proving citizenship was not required to obtain a California driver’s license. Afterward, new registration requirements kept thousands from renewing. Fast forward 20 years and find California home to over 1 million unlicensed motorists. California Traffic officials declared 2010 the “Year Of The Checkpoint’, and according to UC Berkeley-TREC, police impounded six cars for every one DUI arrest. Most of the impounded cars belonged to an undocumented driver. “Illegal immigrants might have accounted for as much as 70 percent of vehicle seizures at DUI checkpoints”, says Gabrielson-California Watch 2011. Impounding an undocumented driver’s car became business for local governments and towing companies alike, while the undocumented driver was referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The law now comes full circle as California becomes the 10th State to grant undocumented motorists licenses once more.

pic35In September of 2013, the California Legislature passed what is known SB60, a law that will permit undocumented persons to apply for a “special” driver’s license. However, this license will not serve to prove identity, it will only indicate the holder’s privileged to drive. More significantly, the card will indicate that the driver is undocumented. Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said, “The license will make clear that the individual is not here legally but is being given the privilege of driving. They will effectively be special license holders.” LA Times. Kim Raney, president of the California Police Chiefs Assn., said “These licenses will include a special watermark on the front and language on the back that makes it clear this license is for driving only and not identification. TSA and federal officials and law enforcement will all be aware that these grant driving privileges only and aren’t confirmed identification.” LA Times By Winton 2013.

Many undocumented residents view this latest news as nothing less than welcomed and fail to see how such a license could be used against them. For example, if a traffic stop was justifiable and not serious, the officer could simply cite and release. However, seeing a “special” driver’s license, the officer could then question the driver about immigration status, and if the information is freely given, the officer could ultimately hold the driver over for ICE custody. Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, voiced this concern when she said, “In essence, it puts a big flag on the card that this is not for a person that is in this country legally. So I kind of question the purpose of the bill.” AP 2013. It will be crucial for drivers utilizing these “special licenses” to remember that during routine traffic stops, questions asked of their national origin need not be answered.

The American Immigration Council invites all 5th graders to enter an Essay Contest.

The theme this year is, “Why I Am Glad America is a Nation of Immigrants“.

Winning entries are to be printed in the Congressional Record. The grand prize winner and two guests will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the Council’s Annual Benefit Dinner where the winner will be recognized.

pic36Entrants: 5th graders-public, private, parochial or home-schooled.

Format: Any written entry (essay, poem, story, interview, etc.) that reflects the theme

Word count: Up to 500 words

Judging criteria: Theme, presentation, creativity and message

Submission: for details email teacher@immcouncil.org.

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