By Joe Guzzardi
October 7, 2013
Here’s California Governor Jerry Brown last week announcing the state’s new law that permits illegal immigrants to drive: “No longer are undocumented people in the shadows.” Commenting on the same legislation, State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said: “Those distinctions [initials DP standing for driver’s privilege] mean little to hard-working people who simply want to drive to work or drive their kids to school or soccer practice without fear.”
Brown claims that aliens are in the shadows while Steinberg says they’re driving to work at jobs they’re not legally permitted to hold and taking their kids to school and soccer practice. Obviously, both observations can’t be true. Brown’s spouting the absurd bromide that California’s illegal immigrants are “in the shadows” is a lie. Give Steinberg credit for, perhaps unintentionally, telling at least a half truth. Steinberg indirectly admits that illegal immigrants are everywhere but wrongly infers that they’re living in fear.
History suggests that the road ahead for California and its new license program will be rocky. Administratively, a nightmare waits. DMV officials must first develop eligibility guidelines for the licenses that probably won’t be issued until the first quarter of 2015. Once the regulations are established, processing an anticipated 1.4 million applications will cost $140 million to $220 million during the first three years. The newly-licensed drivers would pay about $50 million under the current fee structure, meaning that the state will lose $90 to $170 million in this latest illegal immigrant accommodation. California taxpayers, accustomed to subsidizing immigrant programs, will pay the difference.
The paper work problems are the least of the challenges ahead. To prove their identity, applicants will have to show passports, lease agreements or birth certificates. Good luck. New Mexico, which first issued licenses in 2003 and has granted about 100,000 during a ten-year period, has been overwhelmed by fraud. Residents from other states that haven’t approved licenses to aliens flocked to New Mexico to take advantage. Demesia Padilla, New Mexico’s secretary for taxation and revenue called the program a “disaster” and added that the state has broken up organized fraud rings that used falsified addresses, leases and utility documents to get licenses. Expect thousands of out-of-state aliens to move to California to do the same.
New Mexico also offers proof that Brown and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck’s often made prediction that illegal immigrants will buy insurance and therefore make the road safer is pie in the sky. Wishing won’t make it so. I compare Brown and Beck’s dreaming to handing someone a Ph.D. and declaring them smarter even though they haven’t taken university classes.
The insurance coverage New Mexico’s advocates insisted would be forthcoming never materialized. That came as no surprise to Journal of Insurance Regulation analysts who found in their 2011 report that in states that allow aliens to drive legally have an uninsured rate 2 percent higher than other states and more fatal crashes.
Unfortunately, licensing aliens is the trendy thing to do. Nine states beat California to the punch: Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Vermont, Maryland, Utah, Colorado, Connecticut and the aforementioned New Mexico already issue licenses; nine others have legislation pending in the current session.
These are challenging times for beleaguered Californians. Last weekend, Brown also signed the Trust Act which will shield many foreign-born criminals from detention and possible deportation. And in what most rationally-minded citizens consider rubbing salt into open wounds, Brown made it legal for illegal aliens to become practicing lawyers.
Brown says he’s acting on immigration reform because Congress won’t. But Congress is stalled because it knows that Americans are fed up with more illegal immigrant entitlements. They want true reform which starts with enforcing existing immigration laws and not, as Brown has done, passing new special interest bills that work against Californians’ best interests.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]