Should illegal immigrants have the right to secure state-issued drivers licenses? In California, Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck believes so. Regardless of citizenship standing, the public official says that drivers licenses should be attainable.
On Wednesday, Beck met with Los Angeles Times editors and reporters, where he made his vision on the matter known. His main argument in supporting driving rights for illegals? The laws to prevent illegals' use of vehicles haven't prevented the practice.
"My personal belief is that they should be able to [have licenses]," Beck proclaimed when asked by Times reporters. "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."
That being said, he did differentiate between regular licenses and the "provisional" documentation that would be granted to undocumented individuals. He called the potential proposal a "non-resident license." Additionally, he touted the alleged improvement to safety that such a measure would offer California.
"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 asked. "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."
Beck is right that other issues do, indeed, accompany this problem. With illegal immigrant drivers also comes more uninsured drivers on the road. If and when an accident occurs, this clearly creates a problem for the undocumented driver as well as for the individual whose car has been damaged. Considering the feared penalties for being caught without papers, illegals also also more likely to hit-and-run following collisions.
The Huffington Post has more:
A San Francisco Chronicle analysis of California statistics found that hit-and-run collisions accounted for 7.8 percent of traffic accident deaths in 2001 -- more than twice the national average, which was 3.8 percent at the time.
More recent reports show that there were 15,611 hit-and-run collisions in California that left 20,260 injured and 185 dead, according to a 2009 annual report from the California Highway Patrol [PDF].
The Los Angeles police chief has been more vocal on the issue of unlicensed driving in his effort to change the LAPD’s vehicle impound rules. Beck's proposed impound reforms would do away with the current standard of a 30-day vehicle impound and fines of up to $2,000 for all unlicensed drivers -- a burden that he thinks is unfair on undocumented immigrants, notes CBS.
The debate surrounding this issue is a tough one. While people, like Beck, would contend that it would be safer to grant driving rights to undocumented workers, those individuals opposed to illegal immigration would see this as a negative action that validates unacceptable behavior.
(H/T: Huffington Post)