- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2003

California lawmakers are moving quickly to overturn a law that allows illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses.

Last Monday, the state Senate repealed the measure on a unanimous 33-0 vote after just four minutes of debate and with the blessings of the bill’s original author.

The measure unanimously passed an Assembly committee Tuesday, and the full Assembly is expected to vote on the measure Monday and revoke the law just four weeks before it was scheduled to take effect.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called the special legislative session to address the law last week after he was sworn into office. The law, he said, raises security concerns.

“The governor is very pleased with the Senate’s decisive vote and looks forward to the Assembly following suit,” spokesman Vince Sollitto said.

An estimated 2 million illegal aliens are of driving age in California, and supporters of the measure say licensing would ensure drivers are properly trained.

Democratic Sen. Gil Cedillo, the bill’s sponsor, abandoned his measure before last week’s vote as a tactical retreat, rather than surrender, he told the Los Angeles Times.

“This is not easy,” Mr. Cedillo said.

Opponents of the law, which was signed by former Gov. Gray Davis, said it encouraged illegal immigration and would give terrorists access to legal identification.

“The governor’s concerns with SB60 stem from security issues, as well as the manner in which it became law,” Mr. Sollitto said. “That measure had insufficient security standards and was rejected repeatedly by previous governors, and then was suddenly signed into law as [Davis] faced a recall election.”

The law allowed California to accept taxpayer identification numbers to obtain a license as opposed to Social Security numbers required by other states. The Washington Times reported in October that the IRS said the agency’s own numbers are “not valid for identification.”

“If your state is considering legislation to accept TINs as proof of identity for driver’s licenses, please alert your legislators to potential security risks,” Henry O. Lamar Jr., commissioner of the IRS wage and investment division, said in a letter to governors and state motor vehicle department directors. Driver’s licenses provide unrestricted access to most public buildings and air and ground transportation, Mr. Lamar warned.

Activists who support limits to immigration, however, do not see the rollback as a victory.

Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, agrees that the Legislature is engaged in a tactical measure intended to thwart an impending voter referendum in March that would give voters the opportunity to revoke the law.

“The Legislature wants to roll the voters,” Mr. Stein said.

“There is a certain smug satisfaction that comes from watching them run with their tales between their legs,” Mr. Stein said. “They do have a strategy, but at the moment, they look like cowards.”

One political observer said Californians “hate” the law, and if they are given a chance to vote it down, the issue will become “toxic.”

Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican and a critic of the law, said “it doesn’t mean they’ve seen the light; it’s a tactical move.”

“Now all of a sudden they’re going to change their minds and work with the governor? I have a feeling someone cut a deal,” Mr. Tancredo said.

Mr. Schwarzenegger and Mr. Cedillo had a “courtesy” meeting last week, but Mr. Sollitto dismissed speculation of a deal.

“[Mr. Schwarzenegger] has called for that bill’s repeal, but he has also indicated his willingness to look at this issue with an open mind in the next session if folks could find a way to address those security concerns,” Mr. Sollitto said.

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