California Assembly panel supports licenses for illegal immigrants

| 7/10/2006

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

This is the seventh time Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, has offered the bill for consideration. He said allowing illegal immigrants to receive proper driver’s training, testing and insurance would make roadways safer.

Cedillo said there are an estimated 2 million people in the state who could qualify for licenses under the bill, The Orange County Register reported.

The Assembly Transportation Committee voted 7-4 to advance the Senate-approved bill to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further consideration. If approved there, the bill – SB1160 – would head to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk where an identical bill was vetoed in October 2005.

The vetoed bill called for creating special driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants that look different than licenses for U.S. 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 One was signed only to be repealed, another was denied a key hearing and two more were rejected by Schwarzenegger.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor