LAPD Chief Calls for an Illegal-Immigrant Driver’s License

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The Los Angeles Times reports that the city’s police chief is backing a special driver’s license for illegal immigrants:

Wading into a politically charged debate, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said California should issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

The chief becomes one of the most prominent local figures to support the idea and his stance is certain to further inflame critics who are already angry at Beck’s efforts to liberalize the rules on how his officers impound the cars of unlicensed drivers.

“My personal belief is that they should be able to” have licenses, Beck said in response to a question during a meeting with Times’ reporters and editorial writers. “The reality is that all the things that we’ve done – ‘we’ being the state of California – over the last 14, 16 years have not reduced the problem one iota, haven’t reduced undocumented aliens driving without licenses. So we have to look at what we’re doing. When something doesn’t work over and over and over again, my view is that you should reexamine it to see if there is another way that makes more sense.”

Beck said he does not believe licenses for illegal immigrants should be identical to regular ones. Saying “it could be a provisional license, it could be a nonresident license,” he acknowledged that state officials would have to find ways to address widely held concerns that offering licenses to people in the country illegally could make it easier for terrorists go undetected.

For Beck, however, such concerns are outweighed by what he said would be improved safety on California roads and the ability of police to identify the people they encounter. “Why wouldn’t you want to put people through a rigorous testing process? Why wouldn’t you want to better identify people who are going to be here?” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me. And we could increase safety on the roads. When you make things illegal you cause a lot of other things by chain reaction.”

There is the problem of terrorism, sure. Crime, too. But there’s also the problem that Beck’s proposal flies in the face of basic reasoning: If illegal immigrants are so worried about being caught without the proper documentation that they will run away from the scene of an accident, why would they go to a testing center and apply for a driver’s license specifically designed for illegal immigrants? The only reasonable conclusion one can come to is that illegals would be given an implicit promise that they would not be immediately arrested and deported.

An “illegal’s license,” would quite literally require illegal immigrants to walk into a government office and say, “Hello, I am here illegally and I’d like to apply for a driver’s license.” But no illegal immigrant is going voluntarily to get a card that the police can use to, in Beck’s words, “identify the people they encounter” if they are worried that such an encounter might end in their arrest. To put it bluntly, Chief Beck is not suggesting that driver’s licenses be given to illegal immigrants; he’s contriving amnesty. (He cannot, unlike some private employers, even claim that immigration is not his department: He’s the chief of police.) 

I can usually see where those on the other side of any given issue are coming from. But this one absolutely mystifies me. Take this part:

“When you make things illegal you cause a lot of other things by chain reaction”

Yes, you do. If it is illegal to enter the United States without the correct paperwork — which, whether Charlie Beck thinks it should be or not, it is — then pretty much every single act after that point is also illegal. Illegal immigrants are breaking the law by working, trying to get hold of a social security number, driving, and, well, just walking around the country. They are breaking the law by sitting on a bench and by making breakfast and by breathing. If we pass laws that make the subsequent actions of illegal immigrants legal, we are condoning the first crime and violating the laws of the land. Charlie Beck is the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. He has sworn to uphold the law. If he genuinely considers it his job to circumvent it, he must resign.