- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2003

Now that federal appellate judges have reinstated the Oct. 7 California recall election, Golden State voters should run Gov. Gray Davis out of Sacramento for one of the most reckless acts of blind ambition in recent memory.

Mr. Davis struggles to surmount polls that show him as unpopular as Death Valley’s sunshine is unrelenting. Hoping to electrify predominantly Democratic Hispanics, Mr. Davis traveled to East Los Angeles on Sept. 5 to sign legislation that extends driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, many of them Latin Americans.

This is more than just an insult to legal immigrants who apply for visas and otherwise lawfully enter America and pursue citizenship. Far worse, Mr. Davis’ actions are downright delinquent, given the War on Terror.

Islamic fanatics work diligently to reach America, either by infiltrating the southern or northern frontiers or by overstaying their visas, as did September 11, 2001, pilots Mohamed Atta, Kalid al-Midhar and at least two other hijackers. Once deployed, these enemies aim to kill as many Americans as physically possible. Gray Davis just made it easier for them to fulfill their homicidal missions.

Mr. Davis should rescind this prospectively lethal folly. To understand why, he need not consult his myriad critics. Instead, he should consider the arguments of a senior official who has served Californians since 1975. His name? Gray Davis.

Amazingly enough, Gov. Davis twice rejected tougher bills that at least required background checks.

“The tragedy of September 11 made it abundantly clear that the driver’s license is more than just a license to drive; it is one of the primary documents we use to identify ourselves,” Mr. Davis explained in his Sept. 30, 2002, veto message. “Unfortunately, a driver’s license was in the hands of terrorists who attacked America on that fateful day.”

Indeed, Rep. Chris Cox, California Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, noted that “seven of the September 11 terrorists obtained fraudulent licenses from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.” Virginia’s standards were as lax as those California just adopted, although Richmond tightened its loopholes after 3,020 innocents were slaughtered barely two years ago. Mr. Cox called Mr. Davis’ law “a giant leap backward in the War on Terrorism.”

While defending this legislation, San Francisco’s Democratic Mayor Willie Brown unwittingly pinpointed the key problem with Mr. Davis’ signature. A driver’s license, Mr. Brown told CNN on Sept. 9, “gets you on and off airplanes without any trouble.” It may soothe Mr. Brown to envision unauthorized aliens cruising on and off jumbo jets, but most Americans would find that picture chilling.

True, 99.9 percent of illegal immigrants would present their licenses to airport personnel, then fly off for work, visit family or go to Disneyworld. But America saw in living color how much mayhem fewer than two dozen villains can unleash when hatred courses through their veins.

With California driver’s licenses, 19, nine or even two al Qaeda members or sympathizers could open bank accounts, rent cars, enter sensitive buildings or waltz onto 747s. No good can come of that.

California now joins Nevada and New Mexico in approving licenses for illegals. Because this could have a direct and devastating impact on residents of other states, the federal government should encourage or, if necessary, sue these states to reverse these laws. Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, has introduced legislation to reduce federal highway funds to states that grant illegals licenses. “The Congress has a duty to protect the national security interests of the nation,” Mr. Tancredo said.

The moment Hispanic activists decry such a bill as a racist plot to oppress Latinos, advocates of common sense should invoke the names of Jesus Cabezas, Maria Isabel Ramirez and other Hispanics murdered on September 11. Reversing Mr. Davis’ desperate handiwork is not about targeting Hispanics. It’s about letting people named Alvarado or Zualaga labor peacefully within San Francisco’s TransAmerica Pyramid tower rather than race down its stairs to safety or leap from its windows to oblivion.

It would be bad enough if Gray Davis were a neophyte who ignorantly endorsed this measure. But he knows California’s driver’s licenses can become weapons in the wrong hands. Yet he signed this legislation, to generate votes. Rarely has a politician’s self-preservation come wrapped in such potentially fatal cynicism.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Va.

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