CA bill to let illegal immigrants get licenses closer to becoming law

| 9/4/2003

The California Assembly has approved a bill that media reports say would allow illegal immigrants to obtain legal California driver’s licenses.

Under current California law, a person who wants to obtain a driver’s license must present a valid social security number. Illegal immigrants do not have valid numbers.

SB60, written by Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, 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 Los Angeles Times reported Sept. 2 that the change would directly affect an estimated 2 million drivers in the state.

The bill passed the full Assembly Sept. 2 by a vote of 44-31, a spokeswoman for the Assembly said. It passed the Senate June 4 by a vote of 24-14, but the Senate must now approve the Assembly’s amendments before the bill can go to Gov. Gray Davis for his signature.

Media outlets have reported that Davis would likely sign the bill if it passed both houses of the General Assembly. The Times reported that the Senate was expected to move fast to OK the Assembly’s amendments.

Opponents of the bill say it will undermine public safety by potentially allowing terrorists to obtain a legal form of identification, while supporters say it will promote safety by allowing undocumented residents to receive driver training and obtain insurance.

The bill’s new 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 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.

The bill also contains other provisions, including an increase in license fees that would generate $330 million for the state, The Times reported.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at