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Immigrant [Illegal alien] aid bills rejected

Immigrant aid bills rejected

GOVERNMENT: But Gov. Gray Davis approves measure to expand health coverage for uninsured legal U.S. residents.

October 1, 2000

The Orange County Register

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Gray Davis drew a line in the sand Saturday distinguishing between the not-yet-legal and legal immigrants, as he vetoed bills to expand rights for immigrants waiting for their green cards and expanded health coverage for uninsured legal U.S. residents.

Immigration bills

VETOED - AB 1463 (Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles)

Would have allowed immigrants who are eligible and show proof from the INS that they have applied to become U.S. residents to obtain a driver's license. Would have repealed the requirement that driver's license applicants have a Social Security number

VETOED - AB 1197 (Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh, D-Los Angeles)

Would have allowed immigrants who have applied for legal U.S. residency to pay in-state tuition at California community colleges and California State University campuses. Currently, resident tuition at CSU is $2,856 for two semesters; out-of-state residents pay $8,118. Out-of-state community college tuition is $3,500 a year; resident tuition is $12 per unit.

SIGNED - AB 2415 (Assemblywoman Carole Migden, D-San Francisco)

Legal immigrant children who entered the United States on or after Aug. 22, 1996, and don't have health insurance can benefit from state-funded Healthy Families medical coverage.

SIGNED - AB 1015 (Assemblyman Martin Gallegos, D-Buena Park)

Uninsured parents of legal immigrant children eligible for the state-funded Healthy Families coverage may also be covered.

The two vetoed bills would have allowed immigrants -- who have applied for legal residency but are stuck in INS limbo - to obtain a temporary driver's license and pay in-state tuition at state community colleges and California state universities.

"He's splitting hairs on the different classes of legal residents," said Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, author of the driver's license bill.

Access to a driver's license and affordable education are crucial for immigrants, legal or not, because both could help lift them out of poverty, immigrant-rights advocates said.

"He has split the baby yet again on these issues, while immigrants throughout the state are working in backbreaking jobs," said Rini Chakraborty of the California Immigrant Welfare Collaborative in Sacramento. At the same time, "we're thankful the governor maintained health-care coverage for children," she said.

The two vetoed bills already had been watered down at the governor's request. The original versions extended the benefits to some 2 million illegal immigrants living in the state.

Would-be drivers must be legal residents or U.S. citizens, with a Social Security number, to obtain a driver's license. AB 1463 would have allowed immigrants to obtain a license by providing a receipt from the INS that they applied for residency and a taxpayer identification number.

In his veto message, Davis said that requiring only a receipt from the INS is "an invitation for fraud."

Cedillo promised to introduce a version next year to appease Davis' concerns. But he said the current system "engenders fraud" by allowing thousands of undocumented immigrants to fraudulently obtain a license with a fake Social Security number.

That's true, said Davis spokesman Roger Salazar, but the bill would have "exacerbated fraud."

The other vetoed bill, AB1197 by Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh, D-Los Angeles, would have allowed students who are not legal residents but have graduated from a state high school to pay in-state tuition. Currently, such students pay out-of-state tuition.

If the state gave these immigrant students in-state tuition, it would have to expand resident tuition benefits to students living in other states under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 - a costly maneuver for the state. The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition is $6,000 a year.

"The students and families we're talking about are stuck in INS backlogs and bureaucracy," Chakraborty said.

Anti-illegal immigration groups were disappointed by expansion of medical services to legal immigrants but were thrilled by Davis' vetoes.

"That is tremendous news," said Barbara Coe of the Huntington Beach-based California Coalition for Immigrant Reform. Coe was a co-author of Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative that banned social services and education to illegal immigrants.