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Bill to allow illegal immigrants to drive is pulled to avoid veto

By Ed Fletcher
Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau (Published Oct. 5, 2001)

Undocumented immigrants hoping to drive legally in California will likely have to wait at least another year after a bill was pulled from the governor's desk Wednesday.

AB 60 had already won legislative approval, but its author, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, yanked the legislation to duck a veto from Gov. Gray Davis.

"After the Sept. 11 (terrorist attacks), we just received word that the governor would not sign it," said David Galaviz, Cedillo's legislative director.

Prior to the attack, immigrant rights advocates were hopeful the Democratic governor would sign the measure, despite vetoing a previous version last year. Cedillo said he will continue to work on the bill when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

The bill would have allowed driver's license applicants to use an individual federal taxpayer ID number in place of a Social Security number. The federal tax number, given by the federal government to undocumented workers, could be used if the applicant does not have a Social Security number and proves he or she is in the process of attempting to attain legal status.

Bill backers say it would make California's roads safer and provide greater opportunities to immigrants seeking legal status.

"Having so many drivers unlicensed and uninsured is just not a healthy situation for the state," said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Immigrant rights activist Rini Chakraborty said she is disappointed that the issue will remain unresolved, but stressed it is not going away.

"The public is not any safer having untested, unlicensed drivers on the road," Chakraborty said.

While the Davis saved himself from potentially turning off voters sensitive to immigration issues by vetoing the measure, the delay means his decision could come closer to the governor's 2002 re-election bid, Chakraborty said.

"It's one of the most important issues to the immigrant community," Chakraborty said.

Davis' office said the governor had concerns with the bill prior to the Sept. 11 attacks. Davis vetoed a previous version of the bill, saying it was an "invitation for fraud."

Davis spokesman Roger Salazar said Davis had similar concerns with this year's version but shares Cedillo's concern for public safety.