California law will allow illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses

The Sacramento BeeOctober 1, 2012 

Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants in California will be eligible for driver's licenses under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown late Sunday.

The measure, Assembly Bill 2189, was among the final bills acted upon as Brown decided the fate of 108 proposals on the last day for him to sign or veto measures passed by the Legislature this year.

AB 2189 affects an estimated 400,000 undocumented immigrants expected to meet the requirements of President Barack Obama's new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The bill was the latest proposal in a decade-long campaign by Democratic Assemblyman Gil Cedillo to give undocumented immigrants the right to drive legally in California.

Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, contended that issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants would enhance public safety by ensuring that they are trained and tested, and making it more likely that they will buy insurance.

Opponents argued that California should use caution in issuing driver's licenses because they are used as identification for numerous other public purposes – entering an airline terminal, for example.

Officials of the California Department of Motor Vehicles previously have said that it appeared Deferred Action participants would be eligible for driver's licenses. California requires specific documents to be produced to obtain one, however, and those expected to be distributed by the federal program are not on the state's list.

AB 2189 would specify that Deferred Action documents meet the DMV requirement to prove lawful presence in the United States.

It would apply to fewer than one of every four undocumented immigrants in California, according to Cedillo.

The bill extends driver's license eligibility to a select group of undocumented immigrants who already will have the right, under Deferred Action, to live and work in the United States for two years without fear of deportation.

Deferred Action is meant for longtime California residents who came to the United States as undocumented immigrants when they were young and generally have lived productive lives since then. It applies to undocumented immigrants between the ages of 15 and 31 who came to the United States before age 16 and have lived in this country continuously for the past five years.

Participants must be in school, have graduated from high school or obtained an equivalency certificate, or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military. They cannot have committed a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors.

In other last-minute action, Brown:

• Signed Senate Bill 9 to allow resentencing of some juvenile murderers sentenced to life in prison without parole. The measure, Senate Bill 9, would allow some offenders to petition for a resentencing hearing if they were minors when they committed a murder that landed them in a prison cell for life. Under SB 9, offenders could not petition a court until they had served at least 15 years in prison, and they could not be released until they had served at least 25 years. The bill would not apply to crimes in which the offender had a history of violence, the victim was tortured or the victim was a law enforcement officer or firefighter.

• Vetoed legislation to allow California children to have more than two legal parents. The bill would have given judges authority to recognize multiple parents if doing so is "required in the best interest of the child." State Sen. Mark Leno proposed the multiple-parents measure, SB 1476, in response to surrogate births, same-sex parenthood, assisted reproduction and other technological and societal changes that create new possibilities for nontraditional households.

Brown, in his veto message, urged more study of the bill's potential ramifications. "I am sympathetic to the author's interest in protecting children," he wrote. "But I am troubled by the fact that some family law specialists believe the bill's ambiguities may have unintended consequences. I would like to take more time to consider all of the implications of this change."

• Signed legislation, Senate Bill 1172, to prohibit children under 18 from undergoing psychotherapy to change their sexual orientation.

• Extended a $100 million annual tax break for California motion picture companies. The program of tax credits initially was signed into law in 2009 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Assembly Bill 2026, by Democratic Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes of Sylmar extends the program for two additional years – from July 2015 to July 2017. Of $400 million in tax credits that has been available thus far through the program, only $229,139 has been claimed, though that figure could rise because credits can be claimed only after production and auditing are completed.

• Vetoed legislation that would have doubled the statute of limitations for families of police and firefighters to file for job-related death benefits that can exceed $300,000.

Assembly Bill 2451, by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, would have allowed families to file for death benefits for up to nine years after the diagnosis of a job-caused illness or injury to a public safety official.

In his veto message, Brown said the bill sought to address a problem "whose scope is not fully knowable" at a time when California faces its greatest fiscal challenges since the Great Depression.

• Signed legislation requiring parents who exclude their children from immunization requirements to submit a signed statement that they received information about risks and benefits of vaccines. Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento proposed the measure, Assembly Bill 2109, which requires the statement to be signed by the parents and by a health care practitioner. In signing the bill, Brown said that he will direct the state Department of Health to provide a way for people whose religious beliefs preclude vaccinations from having to seek a health care practitioner's signature.

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