Southland activists and lawmakers are hailing the passage of a bill that will provide California driver’s licenses to immigrants who are living in the country illegally.
“Today marks an important day in history, and ends a long chapter of fighting for the public safety of all drivers on our roads,” Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo said. “I applaud our state legislators for doing the right thing in understanding the significance and impact this bill will have on the millions of undocumented workers, and look forward to Gov. (Jerry) Brown’s signature.”
Brown indicated he will sign legislation, which was approved Sept. 13 despite being withdrawn earlier in the day, but later revived.
“This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally,” Brown said. “Hopefully it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due.”
Supporters said the measure will ensure that all drivers on the roads are educated and insured, but critics contended there was no guarantee that immigrants who obtain the licenses will be properly trained and would purchase insurance. Some critics also argued that the bill goes to far with its language prohibiting housing and job discrimination, saying it will lead to confusion among employers who are shown one of the specially designated licenses by a potential employee.
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, conceded that the bill is not perfect, but it’s a “step in the right direction.”
“This bill responds to an urgent need by more than a million working men and women in California who want to be properly trained, drive without fear and contribute their hard earned dollars to our state’s economic growth,” Salas said. “… CHIRLA has been fighting to obtain a driver’s license for qualified drivers in California since 1993. We will continue to work with the legislature, DMV, and other law enforcement agencies to ensure all qualified motorists in California, regardless of immigration status, get an opportunity and the privilege to drive without fear of persecution, bias, or racial profiling.”
Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, said all California residents could see benefits of the legislation, saying, “Studies have shown that insurance premiums would go down as a result of having fewer uninsured drivers on the road.”
But Davi Rodrigues of Save Our State, an anti-illegal-immigration activist group, said the bill means the Legislature “has created yet another special class of persons who are to be exempted from average laws.”
“Laws that discriminate on the basis of country of origin are constitutionally suspect,” he said. “This law discriminates against California residents born in this country, as they will not be able to sign their way into a driver’s license without supplying their Social Security
numbers. I’m suspicious that this may be a good reason for this law to be overturned.”
Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing Los Angeles police officers, said the legislation should lead to the rescission of LAPD Special Order 7, which allows some unlicensed drivers to avoid mandatory 30-day impounds under certain conditions. The union challenged the order in court, and a judge last month struck it down, although appeals are pending.
“If the language of the new law provides an opportunity for everyone to be tested and acquire a drivers’ license, I expect that the chief will rescind his order and we will be able to resolve our issues,” Izen said. “If there are people who driver without a drivers’ license, they should have their cars impounded as the Legislature intended.”