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In the city of Los Angeles, a new hot button political issue is whether undocumented immigrant residents should be able to obtain driver’s licenses. Two notable events that occurred in Los Angeles reflect a movement towards legalizing California driver’s license issuance to undocumented immigrants in Los Angeles. The first event was when Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca voiced his support for legal driving permissions for undocumented residents. The second event took place when the LA Police Commission voted 4-1 to amend the current impound law, permitting unlicensed drivers to be able to get their cars back the next day with a valid ID, registration and an insurance proof.
Obviously, above events reflect certain groups’ political movement – especially the Los Angeles Police Department wanting to make legal driving for undocumented immigrants happen legally in Los Angeles and in the state of California. Many critics and proponents have expressed their opinions on this issue. Moreover, the legality of such law, if ever passed, is also to be questioned under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitutions. I’m sure this law will be very quick to be litigated in a federal court once passed because it is a law that may be inconsistent from the general policies and guidelines of federal immigration laws by allowing immigrants to receive legal benefits and encouraging them to legally stay in the US. On the other hand, arguably the law does not infringe upon the federal immigration law because although it recognizes a benefit to state residents within the sovereign power of the state with traditional state interests such as safety, health and general welfare of its residents, it is not actually intentionally encouraging illegal immigration. The impact of the law, which may encourage illegal immigration to California may also be considered to argue the validity of this future law.
Aside from the legality of this future law, there are many realistic arguments that deal with pros and cons of this movement. For pros, one big argument is the economic benefits immigration whether legal or illegal bring to the state as entrepreneurs naturally benefit from their employment and the alleged benefit to the state government of unclaimed tax return by undocumented immigrants. Additionally, legalizing driving privileges to undocumented immigrants may decrease the number of hit and run drivers in fear of deportation while being caught driving without a license as it is a serious crime. On the flip side, providing the driver license privilege to undocumented immigrants may increase the consumption of welfare somehow. Additionally, it will deter undocumented immigrants from obtaining actual citizenship. Critics also argue the fidelity of principle in immigration law in general and how oxymoron it is to allow undocumented immigrants to help stay when they were supported to be deported.
Answers to these tough questions are difficult to formulate. One’s opinion about what the right thing to do is on this issue will greatly differ based on your own life experience. In Los Angeles, it is an obvious issue that there is a massive influx of undocumented immigrants living among us and it is realistically impracticable to deport them. If not, why hasn’t it already happened? There obviously are benefits in allowing them to stay. However, legally recognizing their stay to be ok also creates a huge problem as to where to draw the line in creating ambivalent paths of state versus federal policies. And what about these immigrants from another state? Will this cause a big migration crowding Southern California even more and create a situation where the state / city government is allowing their legal driving where as federal government will be lobbying to extend their illegal immigration enforcement to state government officials such as the police? This just sounds like a paradox to me and politicians understand that. There are lots of unspoken benefits in both sides without clearly establishing or enforcing rules. In fact, undocumented immigrants still have a right to sue both in federal and state courts. They can bring a personal injury law claim in a California state court from driving. The best way seems to be continuing with our broken immigration system where there are no clear rules and both parties somehow benefit under their conscious disregard to addressing the issue.