Shortly after Arnold Schwarzenegger became California's governor, I bumped into a Mexican acquaintance whom I will call Carmen.
For a brief moment, I considered explaining to Carmen the whys and wherefores of Schwarzenegger's position.
But I quickly abandoned the idea because I knew efforts to enlighten her would be futile.
Carmen would never understand. She has "THE DEAL" going.
Broadly defined, "the deal" is this: upon successfully (and illegally) entering the US, aliens enroll their children in K-12 schools, sign up for medical care, and look for employment on or off the books.
Because of intensive lobbying by the Mexican government, the matricula consular card, unheard of five years ago, is now widely accepted as valid identification throughout the United States.
During the last decade, many states have enacted legislation that allows illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition rates at local colleges and universities.
The Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, first issued in 1997 by the Internal Revenue Service and expressly to be used for tax purposes only, is now an acceptable document in lieu of a social security number to obtain a home mortgage.
Carmen has benefited from "the deal" more than most. Her husband's income from his construction job is adequate enough so that Carmen doesn't have to work. She and her husband own two late model vehicles…and drive them without licenses.
Carmen's days are spent on the San Joaquin County Delta College campus where she is enrolled in taxpayer-subsidized community college education. Carmen scheduled her classes so that she would be out in time to pick up her Mexican-born children from their California taxpayer-funded primary school instruction.
But to Carmen the thought that a driver's license might actually be denied to her is virtually incomprehensible. According to her mind-set, there is no rational reason to deny licenses to illegal aliens.
National security isn't really an issue for Mexican nationals like Carmen. Her own personal agenda comes first:
And to suggest that licenses are a privilege reserved for legal immigrants introduces a concept that is beyond her grasp.
For Carmen, the only conceivable explanation that aliens don't have driver's licenses is—Schwarzenegger dislikes Mexicans!
Carmen isn't totally to blame for her mindset. As one of millions of Mexicans illegally in California, she expects to get everything that the Latino Caucus demands on her behalf.
And God knows that, in California politics, the driver's license is the proverbial bad penny that just won't go away.
Beginning in 2003 with a bill introduced by California Senator Gil Cedillo as SB 60 and relentlessly reintroduced as SB 1160 (it later evolved into AB 2895), legislation to make driver's licenses available to illegal aliens is constantly pressed by the Latino Caucus.
Under the provisions of SB 1160/AB 2895, licenses would be issued to aliens upon their presentation to the DMV of a matricula consular card, a federal taxpayer identification number and/or foreign passports, driver's licenses or birth certificates.
Note that authentic identification, like a social security card, would not be required.
In September 2004 Schwarzenegger, as he promised he would, vetoed AB 2895.
But Cedillo has come came right back and again demanded that Schwarzenegger approve legislation virtually identical to SB 60.
And check the arrogant and confrontational language used by Cedillo's office.
Speaking for Cedillo, press secretary Edward Headington said:
"We can be thoughtful and methodical like last year in meeting with the governor—the Michael Corleone style; or we can do the Sonny Corleone style and go to the mattresses and make it a big public fight for nine months."
But of course the truth is that there is no big public fight looming. Californians overwhelmingly oppose licenses for illegal aliens.
Schwarzenegger knows where Californians stand. His position on driver's licenses is one reason why he and not Gray Davis won the 2003 gubernatorial recall race
And Gil Cedillo is equally aware that Californians are opposed. But he just can't come to terms with the reality that California isn't Mexico yet.
Besides, what else does "One-Bill Gil" do if he isn't constantly beating the dead horse of licenses for aliens?
Grass-roots Californians are mobilizing kill off the license scandal once and for all—and to start shutting down "The Deal."
The Save Our License Committee, headed by Mike Spence and California Assemblyman Mark Wyland, is gathering signatures for a Proposition 187-type ballot initiative similar to that will:
1. Prevent the government from authorizing or providing driver's licenses or government identification cards, in-state college tuition discounts, welfare and other tax-funded benefits to illegal aliens.
2. Mandate that the State must defend this amendment against any and all challenges in state or federal court.
Wyland, who has a separate website supporting the S.O.L. initiative, calls for California to "actively" discourage illegal immigration and recommends that all high-school graduates be fluent in English.
The internet makes grass roots insurrections easier. Registered California voters can download the petition here and mail the completed form,
But bureaucracy still bumbles on. The later the signed petition arrives, the less likely they will be properly processed.
Earlier this week, I spoke to Spence, who expressed cautious optimism that the necessary 600,000 signatures would be collected.
"We have had great support from Assemblyman Wyland and from talk radio shows, especially John and Ken," said Spence.
When I asked Spence if the REAL ID Act passed by the House of Representatives that denied licenses to aliens minimized the importance of the S.O.L. effort, he replied:
"Absolutely not. HR 418 still has to pass the Senate—a tall order—and does nothing about matricula cards or welfare benefits."
California has to save itself.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.