SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) — After decades of debate and discussion, the Calif. Legislature approved a bill that will allow undocumented workers to obtain driver’s licenses.
KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports the state Assembly voted 55-19 in favor of AB60 late Thursday, hours after the Senate passed the bill, which was authored by Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo, on a 28-8 vote.
Gov. Jerry Brown indicated he would sign the bill into law.
“This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally,” Brown said in his statement, issued immediately after the Assembly vote. “Hopefully, it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due.”
The Mexican consulate general in Los Angeles said the bill’s passage was long overdue.
“From the very beginning, a long time ago, we were very much interested in having our people having a driver’s license. For us, it’s a working instrument,” said Carlos M. Sada.
Alejo had held the bill on Wednesday after it became clear that immigrant rights groups were opposed to a provision that calls for the licenses to have a special designation on them. They fear that having a license that looks differently from those held by citizens could lead to discrimination.
The licenses for those living in the country illegally will have a note which states, “This card is not acceptable for official federal purposes. This license is issued only as a license to drive a motor vehicle. It does not establish eligibility for employment or public benefit.”
Supporters said those obtaining the licenses would have to pass the same tests and play by the same rules as everyone else.
“A lot of Californians are in support of making sure immigrants, regardless of who they are or where they come from, are properly licensed. That means they have to be trained, that means they have to pay for their license. That means they have to purchase insurance, which is critical because we want to make sure that regardless of who is driving, they are regulated by the state of California,” said Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles.
Opponents, however, charged it creates a conflict between state and federal law with employers stuck in the middle.
“I don’t support any legislation that makes it harder for business owners to do business in the state of California. This is the most confusing piece of legislation I’ve ever seen,” said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia.
At least one Southland driver echoed Donnelly’s concerns.
“I think it’s absolutely insane and stupid for him to do so,” he said. “I think this kind of thing will lead to the downfall of the U.S.”
Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform said state politicians think they have to cater to the undocumented.
“The Calif. Legislature seems to spend most of its time and energy dreaming up new ways to bestow new benefits and rewards to immigrants,” he said.
Mehlman added, “They don’t vote, but nevertheless, they consider these people to be their constituents. They’re hoping in the future there will be some sort of amnesty and that down the road, those folks will become voters.”
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