Driver’s licenses for illegal aliens are California’s bad penny that keeps turning up. In late February, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, defying all logic, promoted the horrible idea. [Beck Backs Drivers Licenses for Illegal Immigrants, by Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times, February 23, 2012]
Beck claimed that licensing aliens promotes safer road conditions. In the improbable example Beck offered, he speculated that licensed drivers are less likely than unlicensed drivers to flee the scene of a hit-and-run accident. William J. Bratton, Beck’s predecessor, also advocated for illegal immigrant licenses.
Now add Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca’s name to the list of law enforcement officers who, despite their sworn duty to protect their community, favor issuing licenses to aliens. Baca said that his plan which would involve filling out “comprehensive applications” and is “sensible”. [LA County Sheriff Would Back ‘Sensible’ Plan to Issue Driver’s Licenses to Illegal Immigrants, by Robert Faturechi and Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times, February 24, 2012]
Baca’s proposed “application” is so much nonsense however since anyone can claim anything if birth certificates and social security numbers can’t be verified. If Baca gets his way, however, it could become a crippling inconvenience for California’s legal residents since it would put the state out of compliance with federal REAL ID guidelines.
REAL ID evolved from the 9/11 tragedy when investigators learned that among the terrorists, 30 had either driver’s licenses or state issued non-driving identification cards. Licenses are the nation’s de facto identification document. With licenses in their possession, the terrorists were able to board flights and carry out their heinous crimes. Congress passed REAL ID in 2005; the deadline for full compliance is January 2013. As it currently stands, 36 states will meet the deadline; California may not.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies Director of National Security Policy Janet Kephart, California has taken great strides toward ensuring that it issues licenses only to legal residents. The Department of Motor Vehicles “actively” checks status during the application process. Read Kephart’s comprehensive REAL ID backgrounder here.
Baca’s proposal would scuttle California’s progress. And what it might eventually mean is that by 2014 legal California residents may not be allowed to board an airplane or enter a federal building if REAL ID becomes mandatory federal identification. California would not issue REAL ID licenses since the state would be out of compliance; REAL ID standards do not permit states to grant licenses to aliens.
During the last 15 years, the driver’s license proposal has been soundly defeated multiple times. In the late 1990s, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo introduced a bill which he subsequently re-introduced seven times. Cedillo is laughingly referred to as “One Bill Gil." [Assemblyman Tries Again on Licenses for Illegal Immigrants, by Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, February 24, 2012]
In 2003, Governor Gray Davis’ promise to sign an alien license bill led to his recall. Davis’s successor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, vetoed similar legislation multiple times. Even the ultra-liberal sitting governor Jerry Brown doesn't like the idea. A history of defeat that long and pronounced should give Baca an idea of how unpopular licenses for aliens are.