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California will give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants [Video Discussion]

October 1, 2012 | 11:48 am

Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday signed a bill that will allow hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

Times reporter Anthony York will discuss these issues and others related to the flurry of bill-signings during a Google+ Hangout at 12:30 p.m. You can ask questions below or on Twitter using the hashtag #asklatimes.

The driver's license measure will make illegal immigrants eligible to drive legally in California if they qualify for a new federal work permit program. That Obama administration protocol allows illegal immigrants who came to the United States before they were 16, and who are now 30 or younger and meet certain other criteria, to obtain work permits.

"Gov. Brown believes the federal government should pursue comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship," said Brown spokesman Gil Duran. "President Obama has recognized the unique status of these students, and making them eligible to apply for driver's licenses is an obvious next step."

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), the measure's author, had been crusading for such a law since a broader measure he pushed through the Legislature in 2003 prompted a voter backlash. The earlier bill was signed into law by former Gov. Gray Davis, who was ousted from office soon afterward. Before it took effect, lawmakers repealed it.

Brown also veoted another immigration-related measure, the Trust Act. It would have prohibited local law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal authorities to detain suspected illegal immigrants, unless they are charged with a serious or violent felony.

Some in law enforcement campaigned hard against the measure, AB 1081 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said it conflicted with federal law and vowed to defy it.

The act is aimed at Secure Communities, a federal program that creates a pipeline from local jails to deportation. In participating jurisdictions, the fingerprints of every person arrested and booked into local jails are run through federal databases. Federal authorities flag suspected illegal immigrants, then request that police detain them for 48 hours, providing more time for a transfer to federal custody.

Brown wrote in his veto message that he supported the intent of the Trust Act but it was "fatally flawed," as it would have protected illegal immigrants involved in such crimes as child abuse, drug trafficking and selling weapons. "I believe it's unwise to interfere with a sheriff's discretion to comply with a detainer issued for people with these kinds of troubling criminal records," he said.


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