It's time for some real talk about Real ID. That's the perennial legislation from state Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) to permit illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. The latest version, SB 60, was approved by the Senate this week and now heads to the Assembly, where it is almost certain to pass. Then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will veto it, and Cedillo will be hurt and surprised. He will note that the bill meets every objection previously raised by the governor and that it meets or exceeds minimum security standards set by the Department of Homeland Security.
For example, the licenses would be for driving only, distinct in design from those that authorize air travel and access to federal buildings. Applicants from among California's estimated 2 million illegal immigrant adults would have to undergo fingerprinting, background checks and other security measures. Federal Real ID legislation allows states to issue two types of licenses -- a Real ID driver's license that can be used for identification purposes, and a driving-only license for those unable or unwilling to meet identification requirements -- and Cedillo's bill is in lock step with national policy.
Although the senator is in the right and the governor is in the wrong -- the state's roads would be safer if all drivers were required to pass a test and get a license -- both deserve a measure of opprobrium. This tiresome legislative minuet mainly serves two purposes: Cedillo, who represents a largely Latino district, gets to be a hometown hero to his constituents; Schwarzenegger avoids political suicide. But this isn't leadership.