California License Law for Immigrants Repealed

The California State Assembly has passed a bill that will overturn a new law that would have given driverís licenses to undocumented immigrants by a vote of 64-9.  One week before the Assembly vote, the State Senate unanimously voted to repeal the law.


During the California gubernatorial recall campaign, former Governor Gray Davis signed the law, even though he had previously vetoed it.  Some felt he signed the law as way to attract Latino voters.  After being elected into office, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger demanded that the law be repealed because it lacked strict background and identity checks to ensure that individuals were obtaining driverís licenses under false pretenses.


The law, known as the Cedillo bill because it was sponsored by State Senator Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), would have allowed an undocumented immigrant to obtain a driverís license by presenting a federal individual tax identification number and forms of identification other than a Social Security number.  Essentially, the controversial bill would have repealed the requirement for applicants to prove citizenship or legal residency, and would have allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses.  Some California Assemblymen worry that with driverís licenses, terrorists will be able to blend into the population.


Nineteen states currently do not require any proof of legal presence in the US for driverís license applicants.  However, the fact that seven on the nineteen 9/11 hijackers had obtained Virginia driverís licenses or state ID cards without showing proof of legal residence has raised security concerns.  They used these forms of identification in order to board the airplanes.  Virginia has since changed its driverís license laws.


California lawmakers have been under pressure from Republican activists who were campaigning for the law to be overturned through a ballot initiative in March.  Senator Cedillo acknowledged that the bill probably would not have survived the ballot as polls indicated that a strong majority of the general public opposed the bill.


Governor Schwarzenegger has promised Senator Cedillo that he will work with him next year on another version of the bill.  Schwarzenegger has made it known that he understands the highway safety reasons to license every driver, regardless of their immigrant status.  An estimated two million undocumented immigrants drive in California without licenses or insurance.


However, the California Republican Assembly, who had gathered over 400,000 signatures in the past several months in order to place the bill on the March ballot if the Legislature did not repeal it, says it will continue to oppose any bill that grants licenses to illegal immigrants.

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