Calif. Dems Work to Save Immigrant Drivers' License Bill

Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, an immigrants advocacy group, held their national conference Saturday. It was attended by many top state Democratic officials. Among the top issues: how to save California's new law allowing undocumented residents to obtain drivers' licenses. Among the ideas under consideration: a work stoppage.

``We're building a movement to show the economic strength of the immigrant and Latino community until these types of adverse right-wing referendums or legislative proposals come to a stop,'' said Nativo Lopez, the group's national director.

The bill is scheduled to take effect January 1. Governor-elect Schwarzenegger has promised to try to repeal the legislation, but he may not have to do much. Already, conservative Republicans have collected 40,000 signatures to get the matter on the March, 2004 ballot. But it's not over yet as they need 375,000 signatures. Check out Calpundit, who says it's time for an intitiative to end initiatives. We're not quite ready to jump on that bandwagon.

Meanwhile, here are reasons to keep the driver's license bill:

ACLU, 5/23/03:

While we understand the state’s interest in maintaining security in issuing state driver’s licenses, we believe the state’s new policy fails to accomplish this goal and is poor public policy. In fact, it is counter-productive to its goal and poses a great disservice to the entire community.

The new policy will only make our roads unsafe for the community as a whole. Driver’s licenses promote safe driving. Undocumented immigrants who are unable to obtain a driver’s license, but who still need to drive, will simply drive without having passed the required exams and without carrying auto insurance. Accidents involving uninsured drivers increase the cost of auto insurance for all drivers.

To the extent the state’s focus on undocumented immigrants is meant as a post 9/11 security measure, it is worth noting that most of the 19 September 11th hijackers were in the country legally and therefore would have been able to obtain a driver’s license. Ironically, then, this bill will simply make it harder for law enforcement officials to find undocumented immigrants living here, thereby impeding crime prevention and investigation. As long as there is a substantial population of undocumented immigrants in the state, it makes little sense to deprive them of a license solely because of their immigration status.

Whether a person receives a driver’s license should be based solely on whether he or she is qualified as a driver and is a resident of the state. Officials with the Department of Motor Vehicles should not be placed in the inappropriate role of serving as INS agents. Indeed, determining whether a person is in the country illegally is no simple task. There are over 40 different statuses of persons who are lawfully in the country but do not have a ‘green card.’ In addition, there are many people whose status has not been determined by INS. Not all these people will have documents to verify their status.

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