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Are Undocumented New License Holders Driving Organ Donor Spike?

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Since California’s Assembly Bill 60 (AB60) went into effect in January, allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reported that more than 147,000 undocumented immigrants have obtained driver’s licenses. The total number of driver’s licenses issued was up 163 percent from the same period last year. During roughly the same period of time, California Transplant and Donor Network reported that 56,000 people signed up as organ donors, up 30 percent from what they usually see.

“It’s the only spike that’s happened in the last few years,” California Transplant and Donor Network Communications officer Anthony Borders told local media, raising speculation that the increase in organ donor registration is directly related to the high numbers of undocumented immigrants now able to get driver’s licenses. According to Borders, ninety percent of those who sign up to be organ donors do so at the DMV.

Immigrant activists are not surprised that undocumented immigrants would sign up to be organ donors, even though they are ineligible to receive organs.

“It really shows how undocumented people are part of our society and how they really are integrated to our communities. Many undocumented people have adopted California as their second home,” Anthony Ng, Policy Advocate of Immigrant Rights at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Los Angeles told NBC News. Ng believes if these new license holders are behind the spike, it would be proof of "how committed immigrant communities are in contributing to making our society better.”

Nationally, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, in 2012, 7.1 percent of people waiting for transplants were Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), but only 3.3 percent of organ donors were AAPI. In California, 16 percent of the people on the waiting list are AAPI.