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Saturday, September 2, 2000

News from Costa Mesa in the Times Community Newspapers

Latino activists praise state driver's license bill

Others say proposed legislation would allow immigrants to apply for a license while waiting to receive permanent residency.


COSTA MESA -- Local immigrants waiting to be granted permanent residency could be getting behind the wheel sooner than they thought with this week's passage of a state Assembly Bill that would allow them to apply for a California driver's license.

In Costa Mesa, where there is a high population of Latino immigrants, community activists are celebrating what they consider a victory. Currently, anyone applying for a California driver's license must have a Social Security number and proof of legal residence.

"People want the opportunity to make themselves better and they will find a way to be in this country," said Costa Mesa resident and Latino community activist Paty Madueno.

Madueno, who wrote a letter in support of the bill, said allowing residents applying for legal status to have licenses will protect other drivers.

"If everyone who is driving has a license, they will have insurance, and that will be reduce a burden on the state of California," Madueno said. "Take licenses away from those drunkards who are killing people. But if those people who are working to support their families are driving without a license, that is a liability for the rest of us. If we hit a driver with no license or insurance, our premiums go through the sky."

Not everyone in Costa Mesa supports the bill, however. City Councilman Joe Erickson said he thinks immigrants should become legal residents before getting the advantages that come with being legal residents or citizens, such as the right to drive.

"Certain things I think should be given to anyone regardless, such as the right to eat or the right to live safely, but driving is not one of them," he said. "There are lots of ways to get around without driving, such as public transportation or a carpool. I certainly agree with helping people expedite the legal process, but I don't agree with giving someone the right to drive before giving them legal status."

The proposed legislation, Assembly Bill 1463, is slated to go before Gov. Gray Davis for his consideration.