For years, those who came here illegally to wash dishes at your favorite restaurant, take care of your newborns and mow your lawns could get driver's licenses so they could drive their crappy cars to their crappy, illegal-wage jobs in order to provide you with the best price possible for these services that white teenagers no longer do.
That ended after Pete Wilson, riding a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in the Golden State, became governor in the 1990s. Guess some of you wanted the undocumented to suffer just a little bit more for their bucks and take the bus. And that they have. But now they can legally drive again:
Gov. Jerry Brown was set to sign AB 60 by state assemblyman Luis Alejo at L.A. City Hall this morning.
It will do away with provisions that require documentation of legal residence for drivers licenses in California.
Joining Brown will be city Councilman Gil Cedillo, the original champion of just this rule change when he served in the state legislature.
Cedillo's bill passed in Sacramento. But then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, after promising to sign it, rejected the law. It appeared to us that the centrist GOP governor was pressured by the right flank of his party.
Cedillo praised Brown in this statement to LA Weekly:
The Governor is a great American and an optimist who looks to the future, while others cling to a past that never existed. He is an honorable man, 'hombre de su palabra' who has always kept his promise. That was true with the CA Dream Act, the towing bill, and now the CA Driver's License bill. We are lucky to have such a visionary Governor leading this State out of challenging economic circumstances; investing in the future and setting the foundation for a California we can all be proud to call home.
Opponents of licenses for those who are here without papers say folks shouldn't be rewarded after they broke the law (by coming here illegally to clean their hotel rooms).
Proponents note that licensed drivers are involved in fewer accidents and that we should know who's on our roads. Drivers in California should have some familiarity with our vehicle code for the safety of all of us, they say.
What's more, our de facto reliance of illegal labor means that, regardless of this law, we're going to have people who are undocumented here: Those people are subject to tickets for driving without a license and 30-day impounds that can cost more than $1,000.
No more. At least if the undocumented are brave enough to sign on the dotted line for licenses. The bill could go into effect as soon as three months from now, Cedillo's office told us.
The signing at City Hall happens at 9:30 a.m.
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[Update at 1:58 p.m.]: Officials at the signing ceremony made these remarks, according to our handy City News Service feed:
Brown, with Beck standing nearby, said the law "is about getting into a car without fear of (Los Angeles Police Chief) Charlie Beck's men and women take it away from you. He's got to follow the law, too, so we're helping him out by making this law:"
When a million people without their documents (are) driving legally with respect to the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice.
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Mayor Eric Garcetti: "When people ask, what does history feel like? It feels like this."
Cedillo, who got the nickname one-bill Gil for espousing this legislation for so long, thanked pro-immigrant activist Nativo Lopez, saying he's the one who first encouraged him to "address this issue of immigrants who are now beginning to have their cars taken away from them. That is the simple and modest way history begins and change happens."