Davis signs bill; illegal immigrants can now drive legally in California

| 9/9/2003

California Gov. Gray Davis has signed a bill that allows many illegal immigrants to obtain legal California driver's licenses.

Davis signed SB60 Friday, Sept. 5, according to media reports, only two days after it was sent to him by the General Assembly.

According to NBC TV in San Diego, Davis touted the bill's safety benefits at a signing ceremony in the southern California city.

"Right now, about a million people are driving our streets and highways without a valid driver's license and without insurance," Davis said. The TV outlet reported that he spoke during a ceremony in the mostly Latino community of Lincoln Heights. "If they get into an accident, we all pay. I believe as a society, we are much better off if the drivers are tested, are competent and have insurance."

Under previous California law, a person who wanted to obtain a driver's license had to present a valid social security number. Illegal immigrants do not have valid numbers.

The bill, written by Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, allows people who are not eligible for social security numbers to 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 recently 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.

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. David Galaviz, a spokesman for Sen. Cedillo, told Land Line that an amendment to the bill would prevent that from happening. The provision would still require CDL applicants to present a valid social security number, preventing undocumented workers from applying legally.