How Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Immigrants Led to Gray Davis’ Recall

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

October 12, 2013

Ten years ago, California voters recalled Governor Gray Davis. On October 7, election day, Arnold Schwarzenegger recorded a landslide victory over the incumbent.

Since I was one of the 135 candidates, the circumstances surrounding the election remain vivid. From the time Secretary of State Kevin Shelley certified the recall on July 23, 2013 until the polling booths opened, the unpopular Davis fought to stay even with Schwarzenegger. But Davis steadily lost ground as the weeks passed. Then on September 5, Davis made what might have been his fatal mistake.

Davis ill-advisedly signed SB 60 which would allow illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses. With only a month to go in the race, Davis’ popularity plunged. On the final ballot, 55 percent of voters approved the recall, and Schwarzenegger became California’s new governor.

In 2004 and 2006, Schwarzenegger vetoed highly unpopular driver’s license legislation for aliens. Nevertheless, on October 3, Schwarzenegger’s successor, Jerry Brown, signed AB 60, giving aliens the right to drive, ten years after Davis’ failed attempt.

Then on October 8, Brown made good on his promise that driver’s licenses are “only the first step” when he also signed eight other illegal immigrant-friendly bills, some of which, like the Trust Act, directly conflict with federal law. As a result, California is now a sanctuary state. [Governor Jerry Brown Signs Law Granting Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants, Fox News Latino, October 3, 2013]

Whether Brown’s immigration overreaching will end in his recall is too early to tell. California’s demographics have changed since Schwarzenegger’s 2006 veto, but citizens are outraged at Brown’s refusal to veto the bill giving driver’s licenses to aliens and the Trust Act, despite public sentiment against both.


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