by David Wohl
Sobriety checkpoints have become big business for California law enforcement agencies over the last decade. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration paid for 2,553 checkpoints last year, resulting in hundreds of arrests for driving under the influence. Authorities say the checkpoints explain why deaths caused by drunken drivers have dropped to an all-time low in the golden state.
Since 1995 the checkpoints have also resulted in the seizures and impoundment of thousands of vehicles driven by sober motorists who just happened to have no drivers license. The 30 day impounds cost unlicensed drivers well over $1,000 on average. Large numbers of the non-DUI impounds have involved cars driven by illegal immigrants.
Enter California Democrat Assemblyman Gil Cedillo. The lawmaker, who is a member in good standing of the National Council on La Raza, has tried unsuccessfully nine different times since 1998 to get bills passed in the California State Legislature that would allow illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses. “One Bill Gil”, as he is referred to by some because of his repeated efforts legalize illegal drivers, has now managed to get through the back door what he could not get through the front door.
Starting January 1st a new law, authored by Cedillo, will prohibit cops from impounding the cars of drivers who have no license as long as another licensed driver can drive it away. Presumably the unlicensed driver will shortly thereafter resume driving their car, illegally.
This problem, in large part, was the basis for the current law. The new law does not mean that unlicensed driving is now permissible in California. It just means that the consequences of driving without a license, starting in 2012, are virtually non-existent. The law of course never targeted Hispanic drivers nor did it target illegal immigrant drivers. It targeted unlicensed drivers.
The new law has one unlikely and surprising supporter. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told the LA Times “It’s a fairness issue. There is a vast difference between someone driving without a license because they cannot legally be issued one and someone driving after having their license revoked.” Is there really, Chief? The argument can certainly be made that someone who took the driver’s exam and was issued a license prior to their license being revoked, is a more competent driver than someone who’s never done so.
Two nationwide studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that 13 to 14 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes did not have a valid license at the time. Another study from the 1990’s conducted by the California DMV noted that unlicensed drivers were five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than licensed ones. The studies did not consider the reason for the drivers being unlicensed. Nor should Chief Beck.
Gil Cedillo is not alone is his crusade to defend the rights of illegal immigrants. On the national level, the Obama administration, via embattled Attorney General Eric Holder has brought suit against Utah, Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina. All four states have taken action to deal with what officials say is an uncontrolled flood of illegal aliens, many of them criminals, into their states.
Holder claims that allowing each state to create a distinct and independent set of immigration laws will lead to an unwieldy “patchwork” of immigration statutes. This despite the reality that the in substance the various state laws would be largely similar. The state officials, and those who support the law apparently feel that dealing with a patchwork of state immigration laws is preferable to dealing with federal immigration laws that are simply not being enforced—or at best are being enforced selectively.
It’s certainly understandable if state and local officials in Utah, Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina are skeptical. The federal government has insisted “trust us, we have your best interests at heart” all while those same federal officials are, at tremendous taxpayer expense, suing them in Federal Court.
It’s election season. The Hispanic vote is highly sought after by both Democrat and GOP candidates. Any thought that politics have not played a huge role in the way immigration laws are enforced and changed is naive. For too many Democrat lawmakers, the line between preserving civil liberties and defending their “meal ticket”, AKA the Hispanic vote, has become blurred.
There’s a strange irony when lawmakers and activists complain about laws that target lawbreakers. When a nation founded on the rule of law becomes a nation whose laws, especially immigration and criminal laws, are dictated by political agendas, we’re all in trouble.