Illegal License
California rolls over on driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.


Question: What’s the second-largest city in Mexico?

Answer: Los Angeles.

Okay, maybe not technically, but Mexico City is the only place in the world where one can find more Mexicans than in Los Angeles, and with illegal immigration going unchecked as it is, the border between California and Mexico is becoming blurrier every day. With last week’s passage in Sacramento of Senate Bill 60, that border is now one step closer to disappearing altogether.

The bill, signed into law last Friday in a pathetic act of desperation by soon-to-be-ex-Governor Gray Davis, directs the California Department of Motor Vehicles to accept Mexican government documents as valid forms of identification from driver’s license applicants, and repeals the requirement that applicants present proof to the DMV of their legal presence in the United States.

Strangely, Davis vetoed a similar bill less than a year ago, saying at the time that the bill contained insufficient safeguards against the possibility that terrorists would obtain licenses to drive. He would support an amended bill, he said, if it contained “certain common-sense protections” such as a provision for background checks. But even those few protections that were in the earlier bill were stripped from the one he signed Friday, demonstrating just how malleable the governor’s convictions can be with his political hide on the line. If Osama bin Laden himself were to sneak into the country (and what’s stopping him?) he could stroll right into a DMV office and sign up for his very own driver’s license when the bill takes effect next January 1.

Sadly, LAPD Chief William Bratton and other local police honchos supported the measure, illustrating why it’s best to be skeptical whenever a new law or a candidate is said to be “supported by law enforcement.” There is often a wide chasm between what is supported by the brass and what is supported by the troops, and the folks down at my level think this new law is a joke. (Bratton also recently hosted a news conference in front of the LAPD headquarters building, at which citizens were encouraged to support the extension of the spurious “assault-weapons ban.” Also attending were Gray Davis, Dianne Feinstein, and several less-recognizable-but-no-less-liberal politicians, people with whom the average cop on the street has little in common.)

Bratton’s rationale for supporting the new law was that it requires the DMV to institute a “biometric database,” i.e. fingerprint records, to ensure that no one fraudulently obtains a second license under a new identity. With this provision, argued Bratton and others, the DMV will have a database accessible to police officers conducting investigations, and with every applicant identified by a fingerprint, solving crimes will be that much easier.

But not so fast, Chief. Written into the law, down there in the pesky fine print, is a provision that “prohibits the DMV from selling, transmitting, exchanging, matching, or otherwise providing to third parties including, but not limited to, federal, state, or local governmental agencies, any biometric identifiers, or data containing the biometric identifiers, in DMV’s possession.” Currently, a detective investigating, say, a murder, can query a DMV database and obtain photographs, addresses, and vehicle information on possible suspects. But under the new law, that detective will be required to obtain a subpoena or a search warrant if he wants to compare a fingerprint in the DMV’s database to one found at a crime scene. Pressed for time as they already are, detectives will be loath to jump through this extra hoop, so the law isn’t the boon to cops it’s proponents claim. Another glaring defect in the law is the following, taken directly from an analysis on the California state senate’s website:

In order for a biometric system to be effective, all the fingerprint records in DMV files must be digitized. Those records currently on file are not of a high enough quality to be used for this purpose. Hence, a fully digitized database will not be available for at least five years, assuming all current licensees are required to renew in person when their current licenses expire (creating yet another administrative expense and burden for DMV). If those eligible to renew-by-mail continue to be allowed to do so, a fully digitized database will not be available for at least 15 years. Additionally, assuming the bulk of the estimated 2 million individuals who are expected to seek licensure under this bill do so fairly quickly after its enactment, their applications will have been processed well before the biometric system is likely to be operational. Thus, their fingerprints will have the same deficiencies as those already in DMV files and will not be available for digitization and crosschecking.

Proponents also point out that even without licenses these illegal aliens are already driving, and that granting them legal status as drivers will allow them to obtain insurance for their cars, thus cutting down on the hit-and-run accidents that have become endemic in Los Angeles and other cities where illegal immigrants are concentrated. Well, sure, some will buy insurance and obey the law, but some won’t. And it’s hard to predict how many will or won’t when their very presence in the United States reveals a willingness to disregard our laws in the first place.

I was once on the witness stand here in Los Angeles, in a case against a young man from across our southern border who had committed some outrage or other against the commonweal. To his credit, he confessed his crime to me (after being duly advised of his Miranda Rights, of course), and I was testifying to this effect when I was challenged by the defense attorney. He questioned me on voir dire as to my ability to speak Spanish. I testified that I had taken Spanish in both high school and college, and that I had spoken it daily for years, both as a police officer and in my former job. “Well,” he said, “have you ever lived anywhere where Spanish is the primary language?”

“Yes,” I said, “for a long time.”

“And where was that?”

“Los Angeles,” I said.

Yes, the passage of this law brings California ever closer to becoming what Victor Davis Hanson labels “Mexifornia,” and that’s welcome news to those who would see California and the entire Southwest returned to Mexican rule one way or another. But it’s more than a little strange to see people espouse this political shift from America to Mexico while every day hundreds and thousands of their kinsmen leave everything behind and risk their very lives to go the other way.

— Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.