Natividad Carrera recalled an event in 2004 when a group of undocumented immigrants celebrated at a local Department of Motor Vehicles after they heard they would soon be able to apply for a driver’s license.
“When do you ever see a group of people celebrating in front of a DMV?” said Carrera, spokesman for the Southern California Immigration Coalition.
But that celebration turned out to be premature. Then-Sen. Gil Cedillo‘s bill to provide licenses for the undocumented was signed into law, but then repealed before it ever took effect.
Now an assemblyman who is termed out this year, Cedillo, D-L.A., is pressing his eighth and presumably final attempt at turning the bill into law.
Carrera, along with members of SCIC and Hermandad Mexicana, an organization that helps immigrants integrate in the U.S., are looking to help Cedillo by holding community forums in the Southland, as well as Northern California.
“We feel this is an issue of safety and dignity for the community,” Carrera said during a news conference Wednesday morning.
SCIC is planning six community forums around Southern California, with the first to be held Thursday at the Hermandad Mexicana office in Van Nuys, from 6-8 p.m.
About six forums also will be held in Northern California.
“Only with an organized community will we be able to achieve what we need to get a proper driver’s license bill passed,” Carrera said.
are three states in the nation that allow undocumented immigrants access to some type of driver’s license. New Mexico and Washington offers licenses, while Utah has a certificate that enables them to drive.
Undocumented immigrants had been allowed to apply for and test for a California driver’s license until 1993, when Senate Bill 976 took that privilege away.
Republicans and other conservative groups have consistently fought its restoration, arguing that those who are in the United States illegally should not be rewarded for breaking U.S. immigration law.
Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, doesn’t want to see driver’s licenses in the hands of undocumented immigrants.
“It keeps them under the radar and harder to identify,” he said.
Mehlman added that undocumented immigrants don’t have an incentive to spend money on insurance and the government shouldn’t make it easier for them to live in the U.S.
In February, Cedillo introduced two placeholder measures to the Legislature and he has until December before he leaves office.
“It’s a fact of life that people have to drive in California,” Carrera said. “There shouldn’t be any connection between someone’s ability to drive and whether or not they’re documented.”
While Cedillo pushes for this bill to pass, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Green is to hold a non-jury trial to hear two lawsuits challenging the Los Angeles Police Department’s recently changed policy on impounding cars driven by unlicensed drivers.
Chief Charle Beck’s Special Order 7 allows unlicensed drivers to avoid a 30-day impound, as long as they have proper identification, vehicle registration, proof of insurance and a clean driving record.
“If immigrants get licenses, it will totally supercede that issue,” Carrera said.