Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - CALIFORNIA -- State Sen. Gil Cedillo, with the backing of none other than Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, has pledged to continue his six-year fight to award illegal immigrants with driver's licenses -- never mind that recent polls show that 70 percent of California's voters are opposed to the bill.

The bill, SB 1160, is euphemistically called the "Immigrant Responsibility and Security Act," and is lauded by Cedillo as having the most security precautions ever placed on license applicants.

But let's examine some of these precautions:

SB 1160 would allow persons who do not have legal authority to reside in the United States to use an IRS-issued Individual Taxpayer Identification Number instead of a Social Security number when applying for driver's licenses. Yet earlier this year, the IRS issued letters to all governors and state motor vehicle departments advising that ITINs are not designed to serve as personal identification and would not be suitable for determining identification of applicants for driver's licenses.

The measure would require submission of applicants' fingerprints to perform criminal background checks of those who have already broken U.S. immigration law -- as if the FBI, state and local law-enforcement agencies have dossiers on all criminal aliens in the U.S., including those who arrived just three weeks ago.

The measure would require that driver's license applicants present an identification card issued from the consulate of their country of origin (such as Mexico's matricula consular card). But Mexico performs no background check on those applying for its card. I should know: I have a brother-in-law who's in the U.S. illegally and who holds a "genuine" matricula consular.

Last June, before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Steve McCraw, assistant director of the FBI's Office of Intelligence, said that the bureau and the Justice Department have concluded that the card is not a reliable means of identification. McCraw warned that the "ability of foreign nationals to use the matricula consular to create a well-documented, but fictitious, identity in the United States provides an opportunity for terrorists to move freely in the United States without triggering name-based watch lists that are disseminated to local police officers. It also allows them to board planes without revealing their true identity."

On April 8, a group of 88_illegal_aliens using counterfeit matricula IDs boarded an airliner from Los Angeles and successfully arrived in Newark, N.J., where they were arrested. Do we want the Department of Motor Vehicles, which cannot verify the information contained on matricula cards anymore than Continental Airlines can, issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens whom law enforcement knows nothing about?

Against the will of the electorate, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has indicated that he might consider approving licenses for illegal immigrants that are marked to indicate that the holder is "undocumented." But Cedillo says that a special mark could be used by some to treat the undocumented with scorn and ethnic discrimination. Of course, Cedillo also says that the only purpose of licenses for illegal immigrants is for road safety and not for use as identification. And with marked licenses always in the immigrants' wallets, who would discriminate against them?

When Cedillo points out that until 1994, California has always allowed illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses without submitting a valid Social Security number, he very conspicuously never mentions the reason. In 1994, California made it a requirement that driver's license applicants submit valid Social Security numbers mainly for the purpose of making it easier for government attorneys to track deadbeat dads. Cedillo's bill, if passed, would undermine this effort.

With no logical rebuttal of the facts and with little concern for America' security, many "open borders" advocates have made licenses for illegals a racial issue. Are there some racists who don't want illegals to have licenses? Probably, but there many other opponents of this bill who simply believe that all laws should be applied to everyone equally. And that's no racist argument -- it comes from the 14th Amendment of our Constitution.

Hal Netkin is a community activist and participant in the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council. Write him through his Web site at www.lawatchdog.com