By Jim Sanders
Legislation to ensure that hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants will be eligible for California driver licenses is headed to the governor.
The final legislative vote on the measure came Thursday night, when the Assembly concurred in amendments, 55-15.
Assembly Bill 2189 would apply to an estimated 400,000 undocumented immigrants expected to meet the requirements of President Obama's new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Assemblyman Gil Cedillo proposed the legislation as part of a decade-long campaign to give undocumented immigrants the right to apply for California driver's licenses.
AB 2189 would apply to less than one of every four undocumented immigrants in California, the Los Angeles Democrat said.
Cedillo contends that issuing driver's license to undocumented immigrants would enhance public safety by ensuring that they are trained and tested before hitting the road.
Opponents have thwarted Cedillo's legislation in years past, arguing that providing new benefits to undocumented immigrants is a slap in the face to native Californians and to people who entered the country legally.
President Obama's new federal program provides a new twist by giving a select group of undocumented immigrants the right to live and work in the United States for two years without fear of deportation.
The program 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.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles has said that participants' federal status under Deferred Action apparently would make them eligible for driver's licenses.
A lingering question, however, was whether the "employment authorization card" likely to be provided to Deferred Action participants would qualify as one of 27 documents that the DMV accepts as proof of legal presence.
Cedillo's AB 2189 would end any confusion by specifying that, yes, the DMV could accept a Deferred Action document.
Deferred Action participants must be between the ages of 15 and 31, they must have come to the United States before age 16, and they must have lived here continuously for the last five years.
Participants must have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military or must currently be in school, have graduated, or have obtained a high school equivalency certificate. They cannot have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, three or more misdemeanors, and they cannot otherwise pose a threat.