Bid to license illegal immigrants advances in California

| 5/2/2006

Illegal immigrants in California would be allowed to obtain licenses that could be used only for driving under a bill approved by a state Senate panel.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 7-3 last month to advance the bill – SB1160 – to the Senate floor for consideration.

This is the seventh time Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, has offered the bill for consideration. He is optimistic it will be signed into law this time around.

“The dynamics have changed dramatically, and in our favor,” Cedillo previously told The Sacramento Bee.

Cedillo, who said allowing illegal immigrants to receive proper driver’s training, testing and insurance would make roadways safer, said the bill is identical to one vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October 2005.

Since then, Cedillo said the state’s political scene has shifted significantly. Among the examples cited were Schwarzenegger’s four government reform proposals that were defeated by voters in November.

The vetoed bill called for creating special driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants that look different than licenses for citizens and legal aliens. The version for illegal immigrants would not be valid for identification or purposes other than driving.

In his veto message, the Republican governor said the effort “is premature and could undermine national security efforts to identify individuals who pose enormous risk to the safety of Californians.”

Schwarzenegger has remained committed to rejecting any driver’s license legislation sent to him before the federal government issues new guidelines intended to prevent terrorists from gaining access to state-issued licenses.

The governor said “… once the federal rule making is finalized, it would be appropriate to engage in discussions relating to implementation of the act, including whether or not a driving-only certificate is appropriate” in the state.

Since 1999, Cedillo has made six attempts to let illegal immigrants obtain licenses. Then Gov. Gray Davis vetoed two efforts. One was signed only to be repealed, another was denied a key hearing and two more were rejected by Schwarzenegger.