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Reconquistas demand driver's licenses for illegal aliens

Group calls for more licenses

Immigrant advocates campaign to change driving-permit rules.

May 19, 2001

The Orange County Register

SANTA ANA -- An immigrant- rights group announced plans Friday for a Spanish-language advertising campaign to put pressure on politicians to allow undocumented residents to have California driver's licenses.

Nativo Lopez, executive director of Hermandad Mexicana Nacional of Santa Ana, discussed the ad campaign during a discussion on driver's licenses and immigration status sponsored by the Orange County Community Forum at a union hall.

Lopez said the ads will begin May 28 on Spanish-language radio and TV stations.

Lopez said the goal is to pressure Gov. Gray Davis - who last year vetoed a bill that would have allowed those applying for permanent status to receive a driver's license - to reverse his stance.

Lopez said the ads will compare Davis to former Gov. Pete Wilson, who signed into law stricter rules for obtaining a license.

Last fall, state Department of Motor Vehicle employees began checking Social Security numbers and identification documents before issuing licenses.

DMV officials say the crackdown is not targeting Latino immigrants, but is an effort to prevent identity theft and keep criminals from obtaining licenses.

Rick Eiden, president of the Orange County Central Labor Council, said the issue goes beyond undocumented immigrants. For instance, he said unlicensed drivers don't carry auto insurance, resulting in higher rates for everyone else.

"The perception is out there that this is only a Latino issue," Eiden said. "The reality is it affects all of us. All of us are driving."

Speakers at the forum encouraged an audience made up of local unionists and the AARP to write letters to Gov. Davis. About 40 people attended.

In Arizona, two state bills have failed that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to receive driver's licenses. Arizona Motor Vehicle Division spokeswoman Cydney DeModica said that last year state officials began checking for valid Social Security numbers.