- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2002

Some lawmakers in California want to allow illegal aliens, mostly undocumented workers from Mexico, to obtain driver's licenses on the theory that this will improve road safety. "It's good public policy," argues Democratic State Assembly member Gil Cedillo. "When you're involved in an auto accident, nobody is going to ask for your immigration status. They want to see your driver's license and insurance." Mr. Cedillo is the sponsor of the legislation, and Gov. Gray Davis, who previously indicated he would veto the measure, is being pressured to approve it.
But there are multiple problems with the idea of allowing people who are not lawfully entitled to be in this country to obtain driver's licenses. The first and most obvious is that they are, well, not lawfully entitled to be in the United States to begin with. It would be a mistake to embrace the idea that once you're in this country no matter how you got here you'll be exempted from the legal requirements to which other immigrants (to say nothing of citizens) are subject. That would be an affront to the millions of immigrants who dutifully obeyed the law and would set the stage for absolute chaos, as uncounted millions of individuals in Mexico and elsewhere saw the proverbial green light and made tracks for the border.
Further, the granting of driver's licenses would implicitly confer upon illegal aliens a sort of quasi-citizenship and exacerbate the problems involved in deporting those who broke the law, came here illegally, and who have no business being in the United States. Illegal aliens do not have Social Security cards at least not legitimate ones. Granting them driver's licenses only makes it easier for them to take from the system, but not to live up to their end of the citizenship bargain. With a valid driver's license, it is much easier to secure employment, obtain government welfare-state benefits, and so on. But without citizenship or resident worker status and a Social Security number, it is also easier to avoid most taxes and simply move on if the bills stack up or one doesn't feel inclined to pay. Mr. Cedillo and his supporters would help facilitate this process.
Of course, Mr. Cedillo and the supporters of his legislation claim they're only trying to make the roads safer. But how, exactly, would an illegal alien, valid license or not, either obtain insurance, or compensate a person for damages following an accident? Undocumented migrant workers do not have great financial resources; it's not likely that paying hundreds of dollars annually for an insurance premium is high on the list of priorities. And besides, illegal aliens, by definition, operate outside the law. They can just skip out as easily as they skipped into the country if politicians such as Mr. Cedillo get their way.
Moreover, several of the 19 September 11 hijackers had driver's licenses, even though their visas had expired, or they were otherwise not lawfully entitled to be in the United States. If it becomes law, Mr. Cedillo's legislation would only make it easier for such people to slip into the country and stay here.
It's quite understandable that people seeking a better life wish to come to the United States to live and work. But for the things they presumably seek including the rule of law and an ordered society with citizenship that means something to continue to exist, they must be respected. Conferring a major benefit of citizenship like a driver's license on illegal aliens who have no business being here in the first place is an affront to legitimate immigrants and citizens alike. Mr. Davis needs to strengthen his spine and take a stand against this terrible idea.

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