Bill to allow illegal immigrants to get licenses derailed

| 8/22/2003

In a surprising reversal, Democrats in the California Senate have put the brakes on a bill that would allow some undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, The Los Angeles Times reported Aug. 22.

The bill, SB60, written by Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee Aug. 20 by a vote of 16-7.

Under current California law, a person who wants to obtain a driver’s license must present a valid social security number. People who immigrated into the United States illegally do not have valid numbers, and therefore cannot get a license. SB60 is designed to change that. The bill has been modified or amended numerous times, but under the current text, people who are not eligible for social security numbers can submit other documents deemed acceptable to the state to get a driver’s license. Those documents could include a federal taxpayer identification number or a birth certificate from a foreign government.

The bill has been the subject of numerous amendments, which The Times said spurred concerns on the part of Senate Democrats, even though one of their number originated the measure and it has support from embattled Gov. Gray Davis. Senate members said they wanted to review all the amendments before the bill moved forward.

Meanwhile, SB60 has picked up several opponents and criticisms. Among them, The Times reported, are the California State Sheriffs' Association, which said opposed the use of federal tax numbers to verify illegal immigrants’ identities. In addition, the federal IRS opposed the use of the numbers, saying they are "not valid for identification outside the tax system."

The bill’s proposed benefits for undocumented workers would not extend to commercial driver’s licenses. Earlier this month, David Galaviz, a spokesman for Sen. Cedillo, told Land Line that plans were under way to amend the bill to prevent that from happening.

“What we’re going to do is draft language that would not allow [those covered under the bill] to apply for a commercial driver’s license, so we would only cover the regular class C driver’s license,” he said.

That provision apparently has been added. The current version of the bill would still require CDL applicants to present a valid social security number, preventing undocumented workers from applying legally.