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Posted: 11/25/2003 9:49:57 PM EDT

Committee Voted 15-0 To Kill License Law

SACRAMENTO — The rush to repeal a law allowing undocumented immigrants to get a driver's license-- set to take effect Jan. 1-- continued Tuesday as a key Assembly committee voted 15-0 to kill it, setting up a full Assembly vote next Monday.

The Assembly Transportation Committee's action followed a 33-0 Senate vote Monday to overturn the law just five weeks before it goes into effect. As on Monday, repeal supporters included Democrats who had voted for the law when it passed the Legislature in September.

The fast-moving action represents the newest defeat for a five-year effort to license an estimated 2 million undocumented immigrant motorists in California. Though supporters say it will make highways safer by prompting immigrants to take state driving tests and get insurance, opponents call the driver's license a "breeder document" that allows holders, including terrorists, to enter government buildings, get Social Security cards and board airplanes.

Passed by the Legislature and signed by former Gov. Gray Davis in September, the new law would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for licenses with taxpayer identification numbers instead of Social Security numbers. But the idea, which is allowed in six other states, triggered widespread public opposition and a Republican-led drive to repeal it next March at the ballot box.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also made repeal of the law a key part of his campaign to succeed Davis in the Oct. 7 recall election. If the full Assembly complies Monday, the new Republican governor will receive the bill for his signature just two weeks after his swearing in, representing a significant early political victory.

The Assembly's majority Democrats voted to kill the law on the request of its author, Sen. Gil Cedillo, a Democrat from Los Angeles who told them Schwarzenegger pledged to write a new bill to add more safeguards, while allowing undocumented immigrants to receive licenses.

"As difficult as this is for me," Cedillo said, "it is not difficult to say with conviction and certainty, and faith and trust, that the governor and I have made a commitment to pass a law to license all drivers."

Already there are signs of future fights over the issue, which touches on the state's heated passions surrounding illegal immigration.

The repeal bill's author, Sen. Rico Oller, R-San Andreas, said Schwarzenegger has only agreed to "have meeting and discussions about the issue," not to allow undocumented immigrants to get licenses, as Cedillo said. Oller made the comments after committee Republicans expressed opposition to legally licensing illegal immigrants _ with or without the extra safeguards.

Until 1994, California routinely allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses with taxpayer identification numbers instead of Social Security numbers.

"We had it for 65 years without any chaos in the state," Dolores Huerta, a co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union, told legislators Tuesday. Huerta and others urged the committee to slow down and consider that people will drive whether they can legally receive a license or not.

Oller called the pre-1994 system a mistake.

"It was wrong then," he said. "It is wrong now."

The repeal will keep California among 37 states that require driver's license applicants to prove they are legal residents. But the state will differ from some of its Western neighbors, including Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah, which require no proof of lawful presence in the United States for a driver's license.



So get off our backs bout being the gateway for terrorists.

CW
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