Monday, October 21

Driver’s license bill debated

Talk at Royce hall by state sen. Gil Cedillo discusses undocumnted workers' rights

State Sen. Gil Cedillo spoke at Royce Hall Thursday night in an
event hosted by the Honors Fellows to discuss a variety of topics,
including driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Cedillo has pushed for driver’s licenses for undocumented
immigrants for years through Senate Bill 60, but has faced heated
opposition from those who say that illegal immigrants do not
deserve licenses. Cedillo said issuing undocumented drivers a
license or a certificate is more of a safety issue than an
immigration issue because unlicensed drivers are more likely to be
responsible for traffic accidents.

Allowing undocumented drivers to have licenses is crucial
because many immigrants rely on their vehicles for their work,
Cedillo said.

“Our economy relies on a low-wage work force,” he
said. “It’s what has made us prosperous.”

Originally, SB 60 would have allowed an estimated 2 million
undocumented drivers to obtain driver’s licenses without
requiring a social security number. SB 60 was signed into law by
former Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 in a move that critics claimed was
meant to attract the Latino vote in the recall election.

The bill was repealed soon after when Gov. Schwarzenegger took
office. While SB 60 could come back with major changes, some
immigrant welfare groups are concerned about the proposed changes
Cedillo intends to make to his previous driver’s license
bill, saying the changes could actually hurt undocumented

Some of these changes include making a separate driver’s
certificate for undocumented drivers which could only be used for
operating a motor vehicle and would not be considered a valid form
of identification.

Before, SB 60 could have made undocumented immigrants eligible
for the same type of licenses that are issued to citizens and legal

“When you begin to single people out as undocumented
immigrants, that’s likely to expose them to discrimination
and ill treatment,” said Isabel Alegria, the spokeswoman for
the California Immigrant Welfare Collaborative, which is based in

Cedillo is also planning to revise SB 60 to conform to standards
set by the Real ID Act which was passed on Tuesday by the Senate as
a part of a larger spending bill, said Edward Headington,
Cedillo’s spokesman.

The Real ID Act could allow the federal government to
standardize driver’s licenses that would include encoded data
that the Department of Homeland Security will determine. The Real
ID Act is pending approval from the president.

In creating a revised SB 60, to avoid the issue of undocumented
immigrants being discriminated against, Cedillo said he was
discussing how to use technology to distinguish between
driver’s licenses without requiring the creation of separate
driver’s certificates.

“Now with Real ID it’s a moot point if it becomes
the law in California,” Cedillo said.

Even those who already hold driver’s licenses would be
required to obtain the new licenses, and in order to obtain the new
licenses, current holders would have to provide several forms of
identification like birth certificates, social security cards and
mail verifying the holder’s address.

Not all states would be required to follow the law, but those
that do not could place an extra burden on residents because
non-compliant licenses would not be considered official forms of
identification for travel on airplanes and entry into federal

And there are others who are against the entire idea of giving
undocumented immigrants official papers that would allow them to

“If you walk into a government office and you’re
breaking the law, the law should be enforced and you
shouldn’t be given a driver’s license as a
reward,” said Mike Spence, president of the California
Republican Assembly and organizer of Save Our License.

National security is a concern among critics, but allowing
undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses will not
result in an influx of terrorism, Cedillo said.

“(Licenses) are not a determinant to acts of
terrorism,” he said, adding that allowing undocumented
immigrants to have a sort of documentation could actually result in
increased security.

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