Leticia Aceves remembers the fear of her first drive alone.She was pregnant and in the country illegally with no driver’s license, and little grasp of English or California’s traffic laws. She had a doctor’s appointment, so she drove on side streets and avoided Highway 49 — the town’s main road — hoping to lessen her chance of being pulled over by police.”I was shaking all the way from my house to the doctor’s appointment,” Aceves said.Two years ago, driving got less stressful for Aceves and 850,000 other Californians who received driver’s licenses under a state law meant to help immigrants living in the country illegally become more integrated into society.Over the past decade, California has taken several steps to bring immigrants without legal status into the mainstream, including health care for the young and financial aid for college students.But none of the other measures changed lives so profoundly and quickly as the driver’s licenses. Being able to drive without fear of arrest has given immigrants access to more jobs and made them more confident drivers, they say.Aceves now drives as many as 50 miles a day for her house-cleaning business.But President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration has made those license holders anxious. Many of them worry that the cards will be used to identify them as being here illegally and lead to deportation. That has prompted some to avoid getting the licenses, despite assurances from the Department of Motor Vehicles that it will not share information with immigration officials.
Once celebrated, special driver’s licenses stir anxiety among immigrants in California