Foes of licenses for illegals are "crackers", says Perata
|UPDATE: Perata's office his issued an additional statement. See bottom of post.|
In a wide-ranging press conference before the final three-week sprint of the Legislature, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, today called residents of southern California who are opposing a bill to provide drivers licenses to illegal immigrants "crackers" and said they "do not have the best interest of this democracy at heart".
"Let’s face it, immigration is a red meat issue. You’ve got all these crackers down in southern California…in San Diego taking on the governor," said Perata, presumably referring to a campaign stop Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made in La Mesa last week where he was greeted by a hostile crowd. "Even the governor, the governor was shocked, he says he was embarrassed the other day. I agree with him...there is no sense in falling into or getting into a pitched vocal battle with [these] people."
The room reacted in a mixture of gasps and laughs as Perata's staff looked on stunned at the verbal slip. Perata continued by saying that though he has and will continue to vote to provide licenses to undocumented immigrants, it is not an issue he plans to push this year.
"I think the bill on its merits should be passed into law. That is different from the political slant...my responsibility is to look at all things—including, in an election year, the political climate," said Perata. "I do not want to give undue advantage in an election to people who I believe do not have the best interest of this democracy at heart. And some of those people I intemperately called crackers fall into that category."
The drivers license bill, SB 1160, which is authored by Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, is currently in the Assembly after passing out of the Senate in June along a nearly party-line vote of 23-15.
The bill passed out of the Assembly transportation committee in June, as well, on a 7-5 vote and currently is before the appropriations committee.
"If you start getting engaged with these people, you end up getting tar all over yourself," said Perata.
Update: Here is a statement sent out by Perata's office from Perata:
Next time I come to Sacramento in August I'll be sure to run the air conditioner. I want to clarify something I said earlier today. While I am concerned about the coarse and divisive tone used by a small minority in the driver's license debate, I believe that the vast majority on both sides are people of good will.