Politics & Policy

No License? No Insurance? ¡No Problemo!

Driving with Gilbert Cedillo.

Perhaps you read of the recent controversy here in southern California concerning those billboards for a Spanish-language television station. The billboards showed the skyline of downtown Los Angeles, superimposed on which was the Angel of Independence, a famous landmark in Mexico City. More galling than that, at least to those who cling to such old-fashioned notions as national sovereignty and recognized borders, was the billboard’s copy, which read, “Los Angeles, CA MEXICO.”

The ensuing hubbub made for great fun on talk radio and all the cable-news yack-fest programs, of course, with the net result being that the advertisers garnered far more attention than they would have dreamed possible when they came up with the idea. Only in America, no?

But the assault on our national sovereignty has advanced far beyond such trivial matters as billboards along the freeways, for right here in California we have a state legislator who has abandoned all pretense of representing the interests of American citizens, and who now busies himself attending to the peculiar concerns of illegal immigrants. Allow me to introduce you to Senator Gilbert Cedillo, Democrat of Los Angeles. Or perhaps I should say, Democrat of Los Angeles MEXICO.

Recall that it was Cedillo who introduced legislation that would have allowed illegal immigrants to obtain California driver’s licenses. In 2003, the bill was passed by both houses of California’s famously left-leaning legislature and hastily signed into law by a desperate Governor Gray Davis, who at the time was facing what proved to be a successful recall effort. Public outrage over the issue helped propel Arnold Schwarzenegger into the governor’s mansion. Under pressure from Schwarzenegger, California legislators, including Cedillo himself, voted to repeal the bill they had only recently passed.

Far from abandoning his dream of driver’s licenses for any and all who arrive in the Golden State, whether by land, sea, or air, Cedillo has introduced a new version of his old bill, which is now under consideration by the Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee, perhaps to be grafted into a larger piece of legislation when they think no one is looking. You really have to watch these people.

Well, if you already think this Cedillo guy has brass, take a look at two other bills he’s recently introduced, both of which would exempt illegal aliens from certain provisions of the California Vehicle Code.

There are parts of Los Angeles where if a cop stops a driver who a) has a driver’s license, b) has insurance, and c) has his car registered under his own name and at his current address, the cop is so moved by uniqueness of the experience that he will let the guy off with a warning and spend the rest of the day telling people about it. Far more typical is the following hypothetical scenario: Let’s imagine Officer Dunphy is on patrol one night and happens to observe, as he does from time to time, a driver going too fast or otherwise driving so as to make himself a hazard to navigation. Let’s further imagine that Officer Dunphy pulls the offending driver over with the aim of issuing him a citation, the receipt of which will encourage said driver to be more careful in the future, thus enhancing not only his own safety but that of the entire motoring public. Now suppose this driver has not gone to the trouble of obtaining a driver’s license, either in California or anyplace else, and that he also has failed to obtain the liability insurance required under California law. Not only would Officer Dunphy issue the man a citation for the moving violation that precipitated the stop, but also for having no driver’s license and no insurance. And, to make sure this person does not immediately resume driving and flouting the lawfully enacted statutes, Officer Dunphy summons a tow truck and impounds the man’s car for 30 days.

Senator Cedillo’s proposed legislation would exempt illegal immigrants, and only illegal immigrants, from having their cars impounded, and would lower the fines levied against them for failing to purchase car insurance. Cedillo’s reasoning, as best I can summarize it, is that because illegal immigrants are prohibited by law from obtaining driver’s licenses, and therefore cannot purchase insurance, it is unfair to treat them in the same manner as those citizens who, through their own indolence, fail to obtain one or the other or both.

So, in the world envisioned by Senator Cedillo, an American citizen found driving without a license and insurance gets his ticket and loses his car for a month, then gets fined $100-$200 for having no insurance. But the illegal immigrant stopped for the exact same offenses gets a ticket, but drives off with a friendly Buenos dias, amigo from Officer Dunphy, followed by a slap on the wrist from the judge in traffic court.

The Los Angeles Daily News quoted Cedillo as saying that police efforts should be directed at more serious offenses, like drunk driving, rather than “towing people’s cars who are taking their citizen kids to school, church or the supermarket.”

Who cares about billboards with this kind of silliness going on in Sacramento? If this doesn’t have you reconsidering your trip to Los Angeles already, consider this: Cedillo ran unopposed in 2002.

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.

Jack Dunphy served with the Los Angeles Police Department for more than 30 years. Now retired from the LAPD, he works as a police officer in a neighboring city. Jack Dunphy is his nom de cyber.

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