By Joe Guzzardi
July 20, 2015
Within the first six months after California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 60, the bill that gives illegal immigrants driving privileges, the Department of Motor Vehicles issued nearly 397,000 licenses to aliens or about 52 percent of the aggregate 759,000 distributed statewide.
The total shocked some observers. Initially, DMV said that over a three-year period, 1.4 million unlawful resident applicants would sign up. But after only six months, a DMV representative confirmed that the agency has received more than 500,000 submissions, a figure which indicates that three years from now as many as three million aliens could apply, more than double the originally predicted figure.
Guaranteeing that more will apply, DMV recently announced that it would expand the list of acceptable documents that could qualify an alien to drive legally. In addition to proof of California residency as well as Mexican birth certificates, passports, electoral cards and matricula consular cards, DMV will also recognize similar identification from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Tonga, El Salvador, Peru and South Korea.
The DMV statistics beg the question: Exactly how many illegal immigrants reside in California and in the United States? For years, the standard answers have been about 2.5 million and between 11 and 12 million respectively. Conventional wisdom is that the number of arriving aliens is more or less offset by those who either die, go home or gain legal status under one of several available federal legalization programs. Now, those long-standing estimates appear understated and may have to be revised upwards.
A new Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) report found that illegal immigration has continued unabated since 2009 when President Obama took office. About 2.5 million aliens have taken up U.S. residency during the Obama administration. The Washington D.C-based, non-partisan CIS studied Census Bureau data which revealed that nearly 800,000 aliens joined the illegal population between mid-May 2013 and mid-May 2015. Without the new influx of illegal immigrants, the alien population would have dropped 2.5 million. Many of the aliens are not, as is commonly thought, crossing from Mexico or Central America, but rather are deportable Asians and European visa over-stayers.
Combine Obama’s lax enforcement approach with his predecessor’s similar indifference and it’s clear that illegal immigration continues to spin out of control. A Department of Homeland Security analysis indicated that in the first six years of the Bush administration approximately 500,000 to 600,000 aliens settled annually in the U.S. Nevertheless, advocates keep insisting that the border has never been more secure.
As the most glaring example of the long U.S. history of non-enforcement and the self-defeating policy of rewarding illegal aliens with bonuses like driver’s licenses, the Spanish-language daily El Universal published a story which revealed that when he lived in Southern California in 1988, notorious drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman obtained a California license. At the time, the Drug Enforcement Administration had Guzman on its most wanted list for drug trafficking, criminal association and bribery.
Guzman, under his Max Aragon alias, got his license decades before Brown’s law made it legal for aliens to qualify. Critics argue that the current standards California’s DMV established for aliens are flimsy, background checks non-existent, and therefore present an easy opportunity for criminals, gang members and terrorists to take advantage.
The quickest and most direct solution would be for Congress to pass a law that bars states from issuing licenses to illegal immigrants. But in today’s political climate, congressional action that puts public safety ahead of the unlawful immigrants’ agenda is improbable.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]