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Driver's licenses for immigrants supported


February 19, 2000

SAN DIEGO -- A Los Angeles assemblyman is trying to reverse a statewide measure that has prohibited undocumented immigrants from obtaining driving permits for the past six years.

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, was in San Diego Thursday, to raise support for a bill that would allow an immigrant in the process of legalizing his or her status to obtain a driver's license.

"This is a public-safety issue," Cedillo told an audience that included migrant-rights advocates and labor officials at the Tubman-Chavez Center.

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants are unable to obtain licenses because they cannot meet California's requirement of proof of legal U.S. residency. Many drive, anyway, causing unsafe conditions on the road, Cedillo said.

In his original bill, Cedillo tried to lift the legal-residency requirement altogether, but that version got stalled in a state Senate committee last year.

He plans to introduce a modified bill that would allow unauthorized immigrants who are on their way to becoming legal residents to obtain driving permits. A large number of undocumented immigrants would still be unable to get permits, although Cedillo said he would continue to advocate for them.