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California

Fight for Licences & Equality Heats Up

by Carlos Montes |
July 6, 2004
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May 15 march and press conference in support of licenses for immigrants.
May 15 march and press conference in support of licenses for immigrants. (Fight Back! News/Carlos Montes)

 Los Angeles, CA - A mass rally and march was held in Huntington Park, May 15, in support of SB1160 - a bill that allows undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses. Several groups organized the march, including the Mexican American Political Association, Centro CSO and Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas. The festive event kicked off with music and speakers at Salt Lake Park and then began marching on Florence Avenue in the heart of the city. The march received enthusiastic support from pedestrians and motorists as it entered Pacific Avenue, the main shopping district, with the public yelling and clapping to show support. A rally was held at the civic center with music by the popular Mexican Norteno singers. The speakers hit hard at Governor Schwarzenegger and the racists Republicans who forced the repeal of a similar bill late last year.

A series of marches and rallies were held statewide during April and May, to support the drivers license bill. The marches were organized by working-class Mexican and Chicano organizations like Hermandad Mexicana in Santa Ana and CentroAzteca in San Jose.

There are currently millions of undocumented workers who drive to work, school, hospitals and markets without licenses due to the current requirement of proof of legal residency to apply for a drivers license. It is common to see immigrant workers ticketed and having their cars impounded and be forced to buy another car and continue the cycle.

The new bill requires a written and driving test along with a background check, photo and fingerprinting.

Racist attacks against immigrants, especially Mexicans in the Southwest, have increased since the 911 events, with Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft pushing repressive legislation like the Patriot Act and an increase in raids in Mexican communities. Across the U.S., the ‘war on terrorism’ is being used as a pretext to attack democratic rights for immigrants, including the right of undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses.

The current drivers license bill passed the transportation committee on a party line vote, with all the Democrats voting in favor and all the Republicans voting against. The bill must now go to the full State Senate and on to the Assembly before going to Governor Schwarzenegger.

Community organizations and unions are carrying on a petition and post card campaign to force Schwarzenegger to sign this bill.

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