The ad that ran in Daily Variety last week -- signed by the usual members of the "entertainment community," including Ed Asner, Danny Glover and Mike Farrell -- asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign Senate Bill 60, a bill to allow illegal immigrants to obtain California driver's licenses.
Not that the ad ever used the word "illegal." Instead, it used Hollywood award speak to tell the story of Rosanna Perez, "Nominated: Best Nanny in a Supporting Role," who, because of California law, has to take the bus from her home in East Los Angeles to her job in the Westside.
They should have dubbed the ad: Let my illegal nanny drive my SUV.
"We give them access to our homes. We trust them with our children. It seems absurd to me to not grant them the respect they deserve," Farrell explained to Copley News Service.
What's this "we" business? Most people don't hire nannies. Only rich people can afford nannies; they can hire legal nannies.
Farrell was parroting the familiar argument: that everyone benefits from illegal immigration -- through cheaper food prices at the grocery store or the fast-food joint -- so the law shouldn't penalize illegal immigrants. But the logic doesn't work. It also is true that everyone pays for illegal immigration -- for illegal immigrants' children to attend public schools or for emergency medical care -- and so this notion of a free ride is false. Then, there is the paycheck problem: Some of the people who are paying more are less-skilled Americans who have smaller paychecks because they must compete with cheap illegal labor.
So when the "entertainment community" asks for driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, it plays the leading role of Hollywood diva expecting stagehands and walk-ons to chip in and pay for her illegal help.
Let me stipulate: I feel for people who, like Perez, want a better life for themselves and their families and come here to improve themselves -- even if they break the law. But I respect those who immigrate here legally. They show respect for the process.
If the law means anything, you don't reward people for breaking it.
The author of SB60, state Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, told the Sacramento Bee, "Morally, (Schwarzenegger) should take action because there's 22 million drivers whose safety would be increased if all drivers in the state were licensed."
Bunk. The original SB60 didn't bother to toughen up the wrist-slap penalties for driving without a license or insurance. It was all carrot, no stick. Cedillo wasn't so concerned with safety that he was willing to increase the punishment for people who drive without a license.
The dishonesty of the licenses-for-illegals lobby doesn't stop there. The Variety ad asks Schwarzenegger to sign a bill he already vetoed. (Actually, the governor vetoed Assembly Bill 2895, which SB60 was folded into.) Only if and when lawmakers pass the latest SB60 could he act.
The Perez ad also repeatedly reminds Schwarzenegger that he "promised" to pass a driver's license bill. Wrong.
A quick recap: Former Gov. Gray Davis had vetoed earlier versions of SB60. But Davis agreed to sign a driver's license bill when he faced the recall that eventually unseated him. Emboldened by the fact that Davis would sign any bill, even a bad one, Cedillo and company sent Davis a bill with no safeguards -- it would have enabled violent fugitives to obtain a gateway legal document.
After the recall and its clear demonstration of the wrath of California voters, Sacramento lawmakers, fearful for their sorry careers, voted to revoke SB60.They pretended they could undo the bill because Schwarzenegger pledged to work with them to produce a more acceptable bill. But that was an act -- a bad act.
Schwarzenegger had issued the vague pledge to work for a "sensible solution," but in politics, such talk is not a promise but a hedge. After all, no licenses for illegal immigrants is a sensible solution.
The Democrats who voted for the bill and then against it were hiding behind the governor so they wouldn't have to admit this simple truth: When their seats were on the line, they were happy to leave Rosanna Perez on the bus from East L.A. to the Westside, and back again at night.