Los Angeles, CA | Thursday, June 27, 2002
Published: Thursday, June 27, 2002

Card-carrying crime

Over the past two months the city and county of Los Angeles have joined other local jurisdictions that have decided to honor the Mexican consular ID card as a valid form of identification. These documents may now be used in lieu of a driver's license to access a wide range of public services in Los Angeles.

Aside from merely being bad public policy, the decision of the city and county to accept the Mexican consular card as a valid form of identification is unconstitutional under an interpretation of the law that the state of California agreed to in exchange for killing Proposition 187.

For the very same reasons that Judge Marianne Pfaelzer declared Proposition 187 to be unconstitutional -- because in her opinion it infringed on the federal government's absolute authority in the area of immigration policy -- the positions taken by local governments in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California, similarly infringe on federal prerogatives in this area.

The June 11 vote by the Board of Supervisors, like the City Council's May 1 vote, was a radical departure even by the normally laissez-faire attitudes toward illegal immigration of many local government officials.

The sponsor of the supervisors' motion, Gloria Molina, announced that during the six-month "trial period" for accepting these cards, the county would be working closely with the Mexican government to verify the authenticity of the matricula consular documents.

In other words, the county and the city of Los Angeles, which have policies on the books affirming their refusal to work with the government of the United States to enforce immigration laws, are embarking on a joint effort with the government of Mexico to assist people in breaking those laws.

In the past two months, the city and county governments have abandoned their Switzerland-like policy of neutrality on the issue of illegal immigration, and have joined forces with a foreign government to aid, abet and promote illegal immigration.

A policy of neutrality on immigration enforcement is offensive to many Americans who believe that law enforcement officers -- regardless of which layer of government they work for -- have a responsibility to uphold all laws that they have reason to suspect are being violated.

By deciding to honor a foreign identity document and enter into a cooperative effort with a foreign government, these local jurisdictions are taking an active role in making immigration policies.

In addition to breathing new legal life into Proposition 187, the timing of the Board of Supervisors graphically illustrates why 59 percent of California voters thought the initiative was a good idea.

At the same time that the leaders of county government were, by their own account, making a whole range of services available to illegal aliens in Los Angeles, the county's collapsing school system was announcing that an additional $31 million in budget cuts would be needed to close a $430 million budget shortfall for the upcoming school year.

If local governments could be barred from identifying people as illegal aliens in order to deny them services, then those same governments must be denied the right to identify illegal aliens in order to grant them services -- especially if it entails cooperation with a foreign government.

Conversely, if the city and county want to argue that provision of these services is a local matter and therefore within their purview, then the voters' decision to deny services under Proposition 187 was equally valid.

The Proposition 187 decision and the actions of numerous local governments around California are in direct contradiction to one another and cannot logically or legally coexist.

Either immigration is a purely federal matter and city, county and state governments have no business determining which foreign documents are valid and which are not, or it isn't purely a federal matter, in which case Judge Pfaelzer's decision should be overturned and the will of the voters should be instated.

The greatest irony of the unflagging efforts of advocates for illegal aliens may be to give new legal life to a proposition they thought was dead and buried.

Dan Stein is executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

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