SACRAMENTO—Handed an opening by a conservative Congress and President Bush, Assembly Democrats yesterday challenged Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign legislation that would extend driving privileges to illegal immigrants.
Schwarzenegger, who at one point said he favors giving those here illegally the ability to obtain driver licenses as long as security safeguards are in place, had already warned lawmakers that the measure would be vetoed.
Nevertheless, the Assembly last night passed the legislation by a 42-34 vote. It now goes to the Senate for a final vote.
While the basic goal of SB 60 remains familiar, the president and Congress stepped in with the Real ID Act earlier this year that reframed the license debate nationally.
Under the federal law, states have until 2008 to adopt stringent identity-verification standards or risk sanctions that could keep people from using licenses to board airplanes or enter federal buildings.
California Democrats have linked the state’s response to another provision in the Real ID Act that allows states to issue driving certificates to illegal immigrants as long as the document is distinct in color or design and clearly states that it can be used only for driving.
Sen. Gil Cedillo, the Los Angeles Democrat carrying the bill, said the federal law settled the annual dispute.
Referring to President Johnson’s signature on the Voting Rights Act and former Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s rejection of school integration, Cedillo said: “The governor has a choice. He can either be an LBJ or a George Wallace.”