Immigrant groups urge governor to ease 1994 restrictions on driver’s licenses

Associated Press
Thursday September 06, 2001

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An immigrant rights group urged Gov. Gray Davis on Wednesday to support a change in state law that restricts illegal immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses. 

Members of Hermandad Mexicana Nacional marched outside the governor’s local office and national co-director Nativo Lopez delivered boxes of supporting letters. 

The organization wants the governor to sign into law Assembly Bill 60, which the group says would enable qualified drivers to obtain California driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. 

The bill, authored by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, would lift requirements for Social Security numbers and proof of legal status from the application process. 

“That was basically an anti-immigrant measure that was passed under the (Gov. Pete) Wilson administration,” Lopez said. 

The bill is under review by the Senate Appropriations Committee. If signed by Davis, the proposal would return the process to pre-1994 law, when the only identification needed to obtain a license was a birth certificate or a passport, he said. 

The group has delivered thousands of letters to governor during its campaign. 

“They’ve been making their voices heard,” governor’s spokesman Roger Salazar said. 

Davis vetoed a similar bill last year, citing concerns over fraud if identification requirements were loosened, Salazar said. 

Lopez suggested that the Internal Revenue Service’s identification number be used instead. 

“If you’re good enough to pay taxes, you’re good enough to drive,” he said. 

An estimated 2 million people have been denied driver’s licenses under current regulations, but most still end up on the road regardless, Lopez said. 

“You have individuals that are driving without a driver’s license,” he said. “They haven’t passed the DMV exam, they haven’t studied the driving. They’re ineligible for insurance. You and I are sacrificed by a policy that puts untrained, uninsured drivers on the road.”