State Senate backs driver's licenses for young illegal immigrants
The state Senate on Wednesday approved a measure allowing up to 450,000 illegal immigrants in California to get state driver’s licenses once they are awarded work permits under a new federal program providing a reprieve from deportation.
The bill would apply to people brought to the United States illegally before they were 16 who are now 30 and younger.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles has said that those accepted into a new federal program granting them two-year deferrals from deportation are eligible for licenses, but the legislation makes it clear that licenses can be issued even if the federal documentation does not meet state standards.
"The reality is they will be part of our society for two years," said Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres). "They will be driving on our roads, whether we issue them driver’s lincenses or not."
The Senate voted 25 to 7 to approve AB 2189 by Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), and it must go back to the Assembly for approval next. Seven Republicans voted against the measure, but none spoke before the vote.
A couple of Republican senators, including Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo, said they had concerns about how the federal government approved the new work permit program, but thought the state should grant licenses to those deemed by the federal government as being here properly.
Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) said the Legislature has an obligation to help young people who are allowed to attend school and work in the country.
"These kids didn’t have a choice in coming to America but each and every day they make a choice to be American,’’ Calderon said.
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento
Photo: Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press