By Joe Guzzardi
February 24, 2012
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck and I have something in common. We’re both Southern California natives who grew up in the 1950s when the state deservedly earned its nickname, “Golden”
Beck was born in Long Beach, I’m from Santa Monica but I’m sure our memories of California a half a century ago are similar. Given our shared history, I’m baffled why Beck would be so foolish as to endorse driver’s licenses for aliens. Surely Beck remembers, as I do, California before the unchecked Hispanic influx. Regardless of Beck’s immigration philosophy, no one can dispute that California was a better place to live fifty years ago. Immigration, and the population explosion it triggered, is a leading reason why California’s quality of life has deteriorated so sharply.
Not even Beck can argue that giving aliens driver’s licenses wouldn’t further incentivize more illegal immigration. As it is, California offers plenty of benefits. Parents enroll their children in K-12 schools, receive emergency health care and access pre-natal care. But California offers a deal sweeter than most other states. Governor Jerry Brown signed the Dream Act which allows alien children to attend California state universities with taxpayer funding. Brown has also quashed E-Verify so aliens can enter the underground economy with impunity. Adding to the mystery of why Beck is so supportive of illegal immigrants’ entitlement is that his family includes five sworn law enforcement officers. Beck’s father George retired in 1980 from the LAPD as Deputy Chief; his two sons are police officers. His sister was a detective and wife, a K-9 narcotics drug investigator. Let’s hope that at least some among them advocate for upholding the law.
Here’s how Beck sees the license issue. Referring to what he calls “reality,” Beck claims licensed aliens driving somehow leads to safer road conditions. Beck favors a “provisional” or “non-resident” license. In a farfetched example Beck offered, he speculated that a licensed driver would be less likely to flee the scene of a hit-and-run accident than one who has a license. This may make sense to Beck but it doesn’t to me. With or without a license, multiple variables are at play when a driver flees—is there a probable fatality, is he intoxicated, does he have outstanding warrants? Furthermore, licensed or not, aliens are the most dangerous drivers according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Since California has the nation’s highest number of aliens, it also has the most hit-and-run fatalities.
Beck’s advocacy calls his judgment into question. Beck’s predecessor, William J. Bratton, unsuccessfully urged alien licensing. During the last 15 years, the driver’s license question has been soundly defeated multiple times. In the late 1990s, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo introduced a bill which he re-introduced so often in light of its ongoing failure that he became known as “One Bill Gil”. In 2003, Governor Gray Davis’ promise to sign an alien license bill led to his recall. Davis’ successor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, vetoed similar legislation multiple times. Even the ultra-liberal sitting governor Jerry Brown doesn’t like the idea. A string of defeats that long and pronounced should give Beck an idea of how unpopular his idea is.
Beck is neither a legislator nor a lobbyist. He’s appointed to enforce the law. As part of his duties, Beck oversees nearly 10,000 officers and 3,000 civilian staff. In 2011, Los Angeles had 300 murders as well as thousands of assaults, property crimes and car crashes. Beck has plenty to do without taking on the irresponsible and impossible task of licensing aliens. The debate about whether aliens deserve licenses wouldn’t exist if they were where they should be—-back home.
Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns, mostly about immigration and related social issues, since 1986. He is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns are syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. Contact him at [email protected].