By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
There is a pragmatic response: An estimated 1 million immigrants are driving anyway — without insurance, without proper training and with a powerful incentive to flee the scene of any accident.
Schwarnegger says he’s more persuaded by higher-priority concerns over security. “The FBI and our Homeland Security Office has a problem, to give them driver’s licenses that look the same as ours, where they can open up bank accounts, go through airports, and do business and get other documents,” he told reporters.
“Therefore, I suggested to do a driver’s license that looks different . . . so it’s acceptable to the California people and it is also just for driving legally, and not for anything else.”
But neither a U.S. citizen nor a foreign national needs a driver’s license to board an airplane or open a bank account. And if they did, the fake licenses for sale near MacArthur Park would probably pass muster. When pressed on the matter, spokesman Sollitto could not identify a single task that a driver’s license would uniquely make possible — other than driving legally.
Cedillo’s legislation would establish higher security standards than any of the 10 states that offer these licenses. (California allowed such licenses, too, without the intense security measures, until 1994.) The bill provides for taking a full set of fingerprints and performing state and federal criminal-background checks, including a check against the database of known gangs and terrorist organizations. And the identification standard is the same one used for citizenship. The applicant pays for the program with higher fees, set for now at $141. No license holders could use their license as ID to purchase a gun — the background check on the gun purchase would flag them. And licenses would not be issued to anyone with a criminal history.
LAPD Police Chief William Bratton is a believer. “I’ll be happy to have any would-be terrorist come up and give me their photograph and fingerprints,” he said at a press conference. “I’d like to start the line right to my right.”
The standards are so taxing on immigrants that the ACLU does not support the bill. Another initial critic was MALDEF, a civil rights organization that focuses on Latino issues. It’s since come onboard.
Cedillo, in an interview at a Labor Day rally, hasn’t given up on Schwarzenegger: “My hope is that he will sign the bill and that he will honor his word. If he has any concerns, we can go back and address the concerns.”
But there’s just no groundswell of support for Cedillo’s bill among Schwarzenegger’s key constituencies. By insisting on making the licenses look different, Schwarzenegger effectively introduced a poison pill, without explicitly abandoning his earlier pledge of cooperation.
To shift Schwarzenegger’s perception, Cedillo’s side presented an opinion poll that shows majority support for the license once its security features are explained. But a nasty initiative campaign against the licenses — and anyone who backed them — could easily obscure rational discussion.
So it looks almost certain that immigrants will have to wait as Schwarzenegger tacks a course to the political right and the politically safe. And Senator Gilbert Cedillo will not hesitate to appropriate the sentiment of Schwarzenegger’s tag line. There’s no question that come next year, he’ll be back.