Will the Force Prevail?

Battle for undocumented immigrant driver's license resembles the Star Wars saga

By Edward Headington
Published on LatinoLA: September 29, 2004

Will the Force Prevail?

In a Golden State not so far away ...

Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1994)

Governor Pete Wilson is down in the polls and needs an issue to propel him to re-election victory over Democratic challenger Kathleen Brown. He decides to create a phantom menace and wrap his campaign around Proposition 187, effectively convincing a number of voters that "illegal immigrants" are the root of California's economic travails.

Episode II: Attack of the Clones (1994 - 1998)

Buoyed by the success of Wilson's wedge issue ways, other Republicans clone his "I'm a divider-not-a-uniter" politics. Proposition 209 follows suit a couple of years later, ending affirmative action in California. Four years after the phantom menace, Proposition 227 is put forth, bringing an end to
bilingual education in the golden state.

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2002 - 2003)

After 16 years of Republican rule in the executive office, Gray Davis wins. Despite alleged tepid leadership on the energy crisis and the driver's license issue, he was much better than what was offered by fellow contenders Lungren and Simon. Not happy with the election returns of 2002, Republicans put money into a dubious recall effort and rally behind the imposing silver
screen master, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger wins, shedding any darth-like appearances, but promises to "blow up boxes" a la the Death Star.

Episode IV: A New Hope (1/2004 - 6/2004)

Senator Cedillo and Governor Schwarzenegger made 3 agreements in principle when the last driver's license bill, SB 60, was being considered for repeal. First, that the bill Schwarzenegger and Cedillo would work on would be for all immigrants, not just people in the process. Second, there would be no mark or identifier on the driver's license. And three, the governor would
help to line up bipartisan support so the bill could go into effect immediately upon signature.

It was hoped that with a first generation governor, coupled with the security, safety, and responsibility provisions of the bill, a new driver's license bill would be passed and signed into law. All told, over 35 community forums and townhall meetings up and down the state were held to
talk to Californians on the issue. Efforts were made to talk to voters to get a sense of where they were stood; discovering in the process that 54% of California voters will support driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants if it has certain conditions (background checks, fingerprinting, names run
against the Homeland Security terrorism and gang watchlist, etc.)

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (7/2004 - 9/2004)

Publicly, Governor Schwarzenegger follows his immigrant instincts and is overly enthusiastic in his comments regarding driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. Privately, he is succumbing to the dark side of old Pete Wilson staff and the Sith-like activists: Barbara Coe, Ron Prince, Dick Mountjoy and Mike Spence.

The Immigrant Responsibility and Security Act would sit on the governor's desk for over five months with little action and no counterproposal. The first thing in writing Senator Cedillo received was the veto message that again emphasized the governor's flair for generalities over specifics. Although security concerns are cited as the reason for the veto, it is still anyone's guess as to what they are; they have never been specifically stated or put in writing.

The hopes of many in the immigrant community, as well as Californians who want to strengthen national security and public safety, are dashed. To add insult to injury, activists within the governor's party began collecting signatures for another "Son of 187" initiative.

**Reports have come in that The Imperial March is now being played at all Schwarzenegger events.**

Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (2005 - )

Senator Cedillo promises to return to the driver's license issue at the first opportunity-probably sometime in January. He stands with law enforcement, labor, inter-faith coalitions, business, and community-based organizations in calling upon the governor to pass a driver's license bill that strengthens national security and public safety while holding immigrants to the highest level of responsibility in the nation-but in a non-discriminatory manner. He also reminds the governor that he will have to deal with this issue every year until he keeps his word and honor his commitment. Despite recent executive actions, Senator Cedillo is hopeful. After all, even Darth Vader became good in the end.

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