Skip to comments.Undocumented migrants' driver license bill advances
Posted on 09/03/2003 7:47:00 PM PDT by Yosemitest
SACRAMENTO - After an antagonistic debate colored by recall politics, the state Assembly on Tuesday approved controversial legislation to allow as many as 2 million undocumented immigrants to apply for California driver's licenses.
The Senate is expected to concur on amendments and give final approval as early as today, and Gov. Gray Davis has promised to sign it, despite having vetoed similar legislation twice before because of law enforcement concerns.
For more than two hours, lawmakers exchanged harsh words, with Republicans accusing Democrats of politicizing the bill to help the governor defeat the Oct. 7 recall and Democrats accusing Republicans of being anti-immigrant.
Supporters called the 44-30 vote a victory for the public safety of all 22 million drivers in California. Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, who has fought for the measure for five years, said it would ensure that all drivers would be trained, tested and insured.
But to the people most affected by the measure, an estimated 2 million undocumented immigrants, the vote means most may soon be driving legally to work, dropping off their children at school or getting to class.
Concepcion Lopez of San Jose, who has lived in the state for seven years, was among the dozens of immigrants cheering the passage of the bill from the balcony of the Assembly. She takes a risk every time she drives without a license to her part-time job as an arena concession-stand manager and to adult-education courses. Public transportation is not an option, she said, because it would take hours to travel just a few miles.
"It's unjust that we can't drive. Most of us are honest people who have to work to raise our kids," the 43-year-old Lopez said in Spanish. "I'm nervous every day."
But the measure drew criticism from Republicans who supported the measure in past years because they said it no longer protected against fraud and abuse.
Assemblyman Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, spoke tearfully in favor of the measure last year because it would have allowed his father to apply for a license. Not this year.
"There is no way to verify who is going to apply for a license," he said. "A criminal can come to California to get a new identity and that bothers me."
The bill, SB60, would change current state law, which requires "proof of legal presence" to obtain a driver's license. Then-Gov. Pete Wilson signed the measure in 1993.
If enacted, the revision would allow undocumented immigrants to instead use federal taxpayer identification numbers instead of Social Security numbers to apply for driver's licenses. While the Social Security Administration can verify the identity of an applicant who uses a Social Security number, the Internal Revenue Service has said that taxpayer numbers are "not valid for identification outside the tax system."
Applicants would have to provide two other forms of identification such as a passport, a birth certificate or an identification card issued by a foreign government, such as the Mexican matricula consular.
Despite concerns from some law enforcement officials, the bill's author scrapped plans to link the measure to the creation of a digital database of fingerprints that would have allowed the DMV to verify an applicant's identity. The fingerprinting system was removed to win support from Senate Democrats who had privacy concerns.
Its removal left some Republicans asking, "What are we left with?" said Assemblyman John Benoit, R-Riverside, a former law enforcement official. "There are no provisions at all to determine who this person is."
Republicans issued fresh accusations that the governor is using the issue to win support from Latino voters to help him defeat the recall.
Davis alienated Latinos when he vetoed a similar bill last year. He said he could not sign the measure without assurances that applicants had "lived and worked in California for 15 months over the last three years and passed a background check." Because of that, the Latino Caucus would not endorse him for re-election.
This year's version contains none of those safeguards but has support from some law enforcement officials, including Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton. Russ Lopez, a spokesman for the governor, said Tuesday that he still expects Davis to sign the bill.
"The governor is glad it's going to happen," Lopez said. "This is a huge population that contributes so much and they pay taxes and they already drive."
The debate delved further into recall partisanship when Republicans brought up a 1993 vote of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the only major Democrat on the ballot.
Assemblyman Bob Pacheco, R-City of Industry, accused Bustamante of flip-flopping on the issue. In 1993, Bustamante supported legislation to require applicants to provide proof of citizenship to obtain a driver's license. He now supports the bill, Pacheco said, in an effort to win support from Latino voters.
"He's buying your vote for a license," Pacheco said in Spanish, drawing loud "boos" from some bill supporters in the balcony.
Lynn Montgomery, Bustamante's chief of staff, said it was not a flip-flop. Bustamante's support for the '93 bill was strategic, Montgomery said, to slow down momentum for Proposition 187, that sought to deny certain public services to illegal immigrants.
"When 187 was gearing up there was strategy to try and slow that down," she said. "So many of the legislators voted for that bill to try and slow down the impetus for 187."
Republicans Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Sen. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks both oppose the driver-license legislation, and both supported Prop. 187. Peter Ueberroth, the other leading GOP candidate, supports the license bill and opposed Prop. 187.
The only rational explanation I can muster anymore is that if it may be beneficial to some movement or plan to intentionally skew the demographic make-up of this country. Whatever the plan or movement may be would have to rely on a large segment of the population 1. not identifying themselves as Americans. 2. Not speaking the customary language of our once great country and 3. A large demographic who would accept a large decrease in our standard of living or not even see it as a decrease.
What is happening here is larger than incompetence or a democratic/republican vote war, IMO.
Like pianomikey says, AZ can use more conservatives like you. This is the land of the Kalifornia refugees.
We are trying to fight the illegal influx here, right at our southern border, aka "the gateway to the USA." AZ is a major staging ground, and we are ready to fight.