California motorists forced to wait months for DMV appointments after immigrants law goes into effect

HOLLYWOOD ( — The Department of Motor Vehicles is so overwhelmed with requests for new driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations that it can take up to three months to get an appointment or a half-day wait in the lobby.

A DMV spokesman told KCAL9 Political Reporter Dave Bryan there has been a crush of applications for new licenses for undocumented immigrants, a program that began earlier this month. The spokesman said the DMV is working to address the problems, but some people are having to take a day off of work to handle a 15-minute transaction.

At the Hollywood DMV office, where they handle drivers license issues, the long lines outside and packed waiting areas inside are testimony to the long, grueling process that California drivers have to endure before getting service.

For example, Jose Quiroz’s DMV ordeal spanned two days of waiting patiently with his family to have his license renewed.

“Yesterday, I was here for four hours standing outside, and when I got to the front line they said that they were not taking us in no more,” Quiroz told Bryan. “And now I am back here again, because I am here to fix my license, and I have been here five or six hours.”

Quiroz says he called about a week ago to try to expedite the process.

“I tried to make an appointment, but they wanted to give it to me in June,” he said. “That was the earliest they had, so that’s why I’m here. Because I can’t risk getting pulled over because I have my kids. I have to get my kids to school.”

While Quiroz’s experience was the most extreme, we found plenty of other DMV customers who had similar problems.

One driver received a letter from the DMV on Jan. 6 that advised he had to renew in person at a DMV office but had until March 8 — two months — before his current license expired. The driver went online to make an appointment, but discovered there were no appointments available within 50 miles of his home before March 8.

In fact, we found eight DMV offices, including Hollywood, Riverside, Costa Mesa, and Ventura that had nothing available before March 11, after his license would have expired.

The wait for an appointment was even longer eight other DMV offices, including Thousand Oaks, Van Nuys and Torrance. They had no appointments available until April, more than three months away.

Brenda Plantt, who also had to appear in person at the DMV for a license transfer, tried to avoid the long wait for drop ins by making an appointment.

“They told me I had to wait until March; the appointments were covered until March,” she said.

Unable to wait that long for her driver’s license, Plantt showed up without an appointment and said she regretted the four-hour ordeal.

“I’m a disabled vet, and we had to wait in the military but not as long as you have to wait to get a driver’s license,” she said.

Some of those who waited for hours at the jam-packed Hollywood DMV office said it can be a trying ordeal, where time stands still, and everyone just wants to get through it and get out.

“I’ve dealt with this DMV before, but it’s never been like this,” motorist William Hilliard said. “It’s a mess.”

While nobody directly laid the blame on the program to offer licenses to undocumented immigrants for the first time, a DMV spokesman indicated that the huge surge of requests is having an impact on services, and the department is going the best it can to address the problems.

But Carlos Carias, who was waiting a the end of the line to get in to the Hollywood DMV on Thursday, wondered how the state could have known this program was coming for years and why it wasn’t prepared.

“I don’t know if it is the influx of people that have accumulated to the point that they had to do this, but they should train the workers and they should hire more workers,” he said. “After all, our taxes are paying for this.”

The DMV spokesman was unable to provide information on how much money the state budgeted nor how many additional employees were hired to handle the expected increase in business. The agency was also unable to provide anyone to do an on-camera interview about the long waits.