Law Enforcement should oppose driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.
By Hal Netkin

I was inspired to write this editorial after a personal email exchange with Teri March regarding her late husband, Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff David March, whose life was taken in the line of duty by Armando "Chato" Garcia. Garcia, thrice deported and previously charged on two counts of attempted murder, joined 60 other suspected killers who have fled to Mexico to escape American justice.

Since October 2, 2001, when the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that Mexico's goal for violent offenders is criminal rehabilitation, the U.S. has been unable to persuade Mexico to extradite murderers and rapists back to the U.S. for prosecution.

Mexico's unwillingness to extradite vicious criminals should have outraged California's law makers and local law enforcement agencies. Instead, many have ingratiated with the Mexican government by supporting SB 60, the bill authored by California Assemblyman Gil Cedillo to award illegal immigrants with valid California Driver's licenses.

Last year, in a letter from Sheriff Lee Baca to me, he said that he was in favor of Cedillo's previous 2002 bill to grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants with the proviso that the licenses be "heavily-conditioned" requiring among other things, background investigations by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure that applicants did not have criminal records.

But in spite of Sheriff Baca's advice, Governor Davis rightfully vetoed that bill.

Last year's measure would have applied only to people in the process of obtaining legal status. The new version applies to all illegal immigrants. And the companion measure to last year's bill which required that applicants without Social Security numbers submit to a criminal background check, is absent from this year's measure.

In 1994 California made it a requirement that driver's license applicants submit valid social security numbers mainly for the purpose of making it easier to track deadbeat dads. Cedillo's bill if passed, would undermine this effort. Moreover, the bill is a magnet to attract foreign aliens, some of whom are already deadbeat dads in their own country who would be rewarded with a new identity.

In a recent letter to Sheriff Baca, I told him about my Mexican immigrant wife's three brothers who, within the last two years illegally entered the U.S. Two of them left California for other states because those states issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

What is significant, is that my wife, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, had already petitioned for all three of my brothers-in-law so that they could legally immigrate. But they decided to come illegally anyway. Why not? Illegal immigrants have learned that they can virtually change the law by breaking the law -- and that is the rationale of Assemblyman Cedillo who says: "they're going to drive without a license anyway, so let's give them one," ostensibly so they can buy auto insurance.

I can personally vouch for all of my brothers-in-law in saying that they are not security risks, but how can law enforcement determine who are the "good" illegal immigrants and who are the "bad" ones. A 2000 study by the L.A. Sheriff revealed that an estimated 38,748 county inmates -- 23% of the county jail population -- were undocumented immigrants whose annual legal and housing costs were estimated at $150 million.

It is laughable to assume that once issued a license, that the majority of all those undocumented immigrants will run out to buy insurance. If law enforcement can't enforce the law against driving without a license, what makes them think that they can enforce the law that licensed drivers have insurance?

In an open letter of April 21, 2003, by David March's widow Teri, she said, "The bad guys have found the broken link to our justice system. More lives will be lost if nothing is done." If Governor Davis signs SB 60 into law next month, it will be a slap in the face to Teri March and dozens of other victims whose killers have taken refuge from justice in Mexico. Not only will Governor Davis virtually invite more Mexican "bad guys" who will be eligible to receive valid California driver's licenses, but he will send the message to the Mexican government that they hold the trump card in any effort to change U.S./Mexico extradition policy.

This time, I hope Sheriff Baca and all law enforcement is opposed to Cedillo's bill. But simple passive opposition is not enough. In the name of David March, law enforcement leaders should actively and publicly lobby Governor Davis to veto this terrible bill.
Hal Netkin is a community activist. Write him by e-mail at

Teri March has reviewed and approved of this piece.