New State Bills Address Immigration

Harrison Sheppard and Steve Geissinger, Daily Bulletin (Calif.), August 10, 2006

Sacramento—State Republican lawmakers launched a new anti-illegal immigration effort Wednesday, with plans to hold town hall meetings throughout the state and introduce a new package of bills next year.

The effort comes even as the Legislature this month considers several measures that could benefit illegal immigrants, including two Democratic proposals to help them drive legally in California.

Under Assembly Republicans’ plan, a Republican Task Force on Illegal Immigration will gather information on the issue, including holding at least half a dozen town hall forums by the end of this year throughout the state. Assembly members Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, and Audra Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, will co-chair the task force.

“Through polls and chatting with people, I know Californians are very concerned and frustrated with the Legislature for doing nothing. At the same time, Congress seems to be at an impasse,” Strickland said. “It’s high time for the state to step up and do something about it.”

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“Illegal immigration costs California taxpayers over $10 billion per year,” DeVore said. “This task force will further quantify the impact that illegal immigration has on California and propose real solutions to this devastating problem.”

Earlier this year, DeVore led a boycott of Mexican President Vicente Fox’s speech before the California Legislature.

Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, said “these self-appointed vigilantes are doing exactly what their Republican counterparts in Washington are doing about immigration—pitting Americans against each other instead of taking action.”

Even as Republicans take a hard line, the Legislature this month is weighing several proposals that would help illegal immigrants drive.

Sen. Gil Cedillo’s perennial effort to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants is back in the Assembly and expected next week to face a committee vote.

Meanwhile, a bill that would prevent police from seizing vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers could come up for a vote on the Assembly floor as soon as today.

Senate Bill 626 by Sen. Nell Soto, D-Pomona, would apply to all drivers who have never obtained a California license.

Critics said they believe it would mostly affect illegal immigrants, but Soto said her intent was to help working people who need vehicles to support their families.

“All it is is help for people who are poor and are trying to make a living and supporting their families,” Soto said. “I thought taking their driving privileges away for a whole month is too much. All I’m trying to do is help working families, and I don’t know if some of them are undocumented or not.”

Under current law, police can seize vehicles for up to 30 days if the driver is unlicensed. Under Soto’s bill, if the driver never had a license, the vehicle could be seized for only 24 hours; those who had licenses suspended or revoked would still have the vehicles impounded for up to 30 days.

Critics believe most of the people who drive but have never obtained California licenses are undocumented immigrants.

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Conservatives believe both bills would serve to encourage more illegal immigrants to come to California.

“What we ought not to be doing as a state is putting out a big red neon sign that says, ‘If you’re going to violate U.S. immigration law, be sure to violate it in California because they give you the best deal,’“ said DeVore.

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