Recently the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department advocated for undocumented immigrants to have to ability to obtain a driver’s license. His comments have sparked an immigration controversy about granting rights to people who are not U.S. citizens.
The LAPD chief said granting licenses to undocumented immigrants would allow law enforcement to “better identify” people who are in the country. Driver’s licenses would also put undocumented immigrants through a “rigorous testing process,” according to the chief, seemingly saying that these immigrants would have greater knowledge of the rules of the road and gain more experience operating a vehicle.
To the chief, it is not an immigration issue. It is an issue of public safety. So is that the way to view this matter? According to a 2008 report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that examined unlicensed drivers – regardless of citizenship status – from 2001 to 2005, nearly 54% of them were involved in a hit-and-run incident. A little over 41% of those hit-and-run drivers either possessed an invalid license or did not have one at all.
Considering that U.S. citizens who do not have a driver’s license pose an equal risk to the driving public as undocumented immigrants, it seems to be more of a public safety issue. In addition, consequences against unlicensed U.S. citizens may not prevent further driving episodes by that convicted person.
What about the matter of undocumented immigrants having to provide personal information to obtain one of these licenses – will they enthusiastically try to get one? Or will the fear of future deportation or criminal prosecution keep undocumented immigrants away?
It is a delicate issue that has not been made a reality yet. Any issues that pertain to immigrant rights or deportation defense should not be handled alone. When you are faced with immigration or legal matters that threaten to deport you and break up your family, talk to an attorney so your case can be properly addressed.
Source: Multi-American, “Driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants: A matter of public safety?,” Leslie Berestein Rojas, Feb. 23, 2012