California approves hotly debated driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants

On the final day of its legislative session, the California Assembly voted to allow driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. The measure already passed the Senate, and Gov. Jerry Brown has indicated he will sign it.

“This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally,” Brown said in a statement issued after the vote Thursday night. “Hopefully, it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due.”

The bill has been in the works for over two decades, with heated debates on both sides, according to Los Angeles TV station KABC.

Don Rosenberg, whose son was killed by an unlicensed driver, testified against the bill, telling KABC there is no evidence that giving illegal immigrants licenses will make the roads safer.

“They’re bad drivers in their countries of origin and in New Mexico, which did exactly what California is doing,” Rosenberg said. “They gave out licenses, fatalities went up, collisions went up.”

An amendment to the bill calls for a special license designation, which immigrant rights groups opposed. The license will state:

“This card is not acceptable for official federal purposes. This license is issued only as a license to drive a motor vehicle. It does not establish eligibility for employment or public benefit.”

“A lot of Californians are in support of making sure immigrants, regardless of who they are or where they come from, are properly licensed,” state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, told the local CBS affiliate. “That means they have to be trained, that means they have to pay for their license. That means they have to purchase insurance, which is critical because we want to make sure that regardless of who is driving, they are regulated by the state of California.”

Opponents said the measure will create a conflict between state and federal law, putting employers in the middle.

“I don’t support any legislation that makes it harder for business owners to do business in the state of California,” Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, told CBS Los Angeles. “This is the most confusing piece of legislation I’ve ever seen.”

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