Earlier this year, Sacramento lawmakers passed one of the most craven pieces of legislation the state capital has ever produced. Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill repealing the erstwhile SB60, which would have allowed illegal immigrants to obtain California driver's licenses. The journey that led state politicians to kill the bill they once embraced has a moral behind it.
Of course, the heavily Democratic Legislature killed the bill because it was highly unpopular (and bound to be overturned in an initiative that would have qualified for the March ballot). The Democrats had completely misread public sentiment on the measure.
Perhaps the Dems bought into their own public-relations spin, which argued that support for Proposition 187 -- the 1994 measure that pledged to deny state benefits to illegal immigrants -- was bad politics, even though 59 percent of voters backed it. Certainly they bought into the far-left argument that there is no difference between legal and illegal immigrants, and that enforcing immigration laws is anti-Latino.
Political consultants warned Democrats that a driver's license bill for illegal immigrants was a "turkey" with the voters in 2002, said Garry South, former political guru to former Gov. Gray Davis, "but they didn't care."
Meanwhile, some Davis aides were so out of touch that they believed Davis' signing of SB60 would deliver them a monolithic Latino vote in the recall election. How bitter it must have been for SB60 supporters to learn that a Los Angeles Times poll found that 38 percent of Latino voters strongly opposed giving a driver's license to an illegal immigrant.
"The intention of the bill was to place valid state identity documents in the hands of illegal immigrants," state Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, noted, "and the only purpose of that is to undermine U.S. immigration laws."
Oddly, state voters have shown more respect for immigration laws than state lawmakers.
The worst of it was: Not only did Sacramento politicians pass a bill that offended California voters on principle -- by giving the imprimatur of state documentation to people deliberately breaking federal law -- but they also passed, and Davis signed, the worst possible version of it.