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.
At the time, the bill's author, Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, touted the measure as an effort to "restore highway safety." But his bill did nothing to increase the petty penalties meted out to those who drive without a license or insurance. It ditched proposals to prevent fraud and keep escaped convicts from obtaining a document that would give them legitimacy. It was bald in its contempt for the legitimate objections to granting licenses to illegal immigrants with serious criminal records.
Sen. Cedillo has told the press that he will work with the governor to produce a compromise measure early next year. Team Arnold countered that "there is no agreement." And there should be no agreement.
When pro-illegal immigrant politicians had their chance, their arrogance knew no bounds. They showed no respect for federal law or state voters. Bill supporters only changed their tune when they realized the bill could hurt their precious derrieres.
Said Davis adviser South, "The galling thing to me is that the Democrats in the Legislature tried to ram this thing down the governor's throat in 2002 and (again) at the end of the recall election. And in both cases, (Davis) faced drastic effects, both by vetoing it in 2002 and signing it in 2003."
South is outraged that Cedillo and company only retreated when their careers were at stake and a Republican governor was installed.
Governor, these guys don't deserve a compromise bill. On this issue, they cannot be trusted.