As Marco Anaya unloaded his bags from a cart at the Foods Co. shopping center in east Salinas, he lamented his inability to drive a car. "It's a lot of trouble to be traveling by bus," Anaya said last week, pointing to the seven plastic bags that he had to bring home. "I brought (my son) so he could help me carry them."
Anaya said he still hopes that state legislation allowing undocumented immigrants like him to get a driver's license is approved. But as the Aug. 31 deadline to have all legislation on the governor's desk draws near, Anaya is seeing his hopes dwindle.
The bill faces strong opposition from some conservative leaders.
"If we simply approve driver's licenses for undocumented people we're undermining part of the law," said Bob Perkins, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau.
"How can you give them legal access to driver's licenses, a form of ID that brings rights and privileges under the law, when they are breaking the law with their presence here?" asked Perkins, also the Republican candidate for the 28th Assembly district.
The Immigrant Responsibility and Security Act would grant driver's licenses to close to 2 million undocumented immigrants in California as long as they pass a background check, pay higher fees than legal residents for a driving permit and have a U.S. citizen sponsor their application.
But the measure is stalled in legislative limbo after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he wants the licenses have a mark that shows the holder is an undocumented immigrant.
"The only thing holding up a deal is a discriminatory mark (on the) driver's licenses," Edward Headington said Thursday. He's the spokesman for state Sen. Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles, pictured), author of the bill.
"We'll meet with the governor's staff in the next few days to get a compromise," Headington said. "If we can't, we'll still put a bill on his desk."
But without an agreed-upon compromise in place, it will be more difficult to get the governor's signature, Headington said.
Soon after Schwarzenegger was elected last year, he promised he would approve a bill to grant the right to drive to undocumented immigrants as long as such a measure had stronger security measures than an earlier bill, which he persuaded the legislature to repeal shortly after former Gov. Gray Davis signed it into law.
Cedillo then went back to the drawing board and crafted a bill that would require background checks and fingerprinting.
The improved security measures get some praise from law enforcement officers.
"When this (bill) first came out as SB 60 ... it was not good legislation," said Salinas Police Chief Daniel Ortega. "But Cedillo has since ... straightened out some things and to me it appears to be workable legislation. What I like about it is that makes proper driver education a requirement. From a law-enforcement standpoint this is a plus. Overall it will make (the road) safer for all our citizens."
Farm Bureau chief Perkins said the issue of granting driver's licenses is part of a larger question.
"We have to resolve first the problem of illegal immigration, part of which is the need to have a guest worker program that will meet our employment needs," he said.