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California Legislature passes several bills helping illegal immigrants

September 13, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's a banner year for immigrants living in California illegally. Since Congress won't pass immigration reform, the state Legislature sent Gov. Jerry Brown numerous proposals that help the more than 2.8 million who are here.

"It does reinforce the message to Washington that California is serious about the need for comprehensive immigration reform," said Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles).

Among the proposals headed to the governor is one that cracks down on consultants who take money to help immigrants save a place in line for legalization.

Another measure would allow someone who passes the bar exam, like Sergio Garcia, to obtain a law license even if they're undocumented. There's also the Trust Act, prohibiting local law enforcement from turning over immigrants to the feds when arrested for minor crimes.

But the big one is giving them a driver's license, which was thought to be shelved for the year. State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said in a meeting with the governor Wednesday night, members of the Latino caucus lamented his reluctance to sign a driver's license bill.

"And he's like, 'What are you talking about? Send me the bill. I've been waiting for that bill. I want to sign it,'" said Lara. "We thought this was so important that we had to move, that we had to strike while the iron was hot."

That spurred a last-minute frenzy getting the driver's license bill to the governor's desk. Surprisingly, some of the bills got Republicans' support . It comes at a time when the party is trying make in-roads with Latinos.

Cherry farmer turned State Senator Andy Vidak says California must do what it can.

"I'm in a state office, but we have to react to what the federal government does or does not do, and this was something we could do," said Vidak (R-Hanford).