Giving Drivers Licenses to Illegal Immigrants

Many people say that allowing illegal aliens to obtain state driver's licenses helps them and encourages them to remain illegally in this country. Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox late last year issued an opinion that licenses could be issued only to legal state residents, calling it "one more tool in our initiative to bolster Michigan's border and document security."

In reality, we are a much more secure nation if we do issue driver's licenses and/or state IDs to every resident who applies, regardless of immigration status. Issuing them doesn't make us any less secure, and refusing puts us at risk.

The state driver's license databases are the only comprehensive databases of U.S. residents. They're more complete, and contain more information - including photographs and, in some cases, fingerprints - than the IRS database, the Social Security database, or state birth certificate databases. As such, they are an invaluable police tool - for investigating crimes, tracking down suspects, and proving guilt.

Removing the 8 million-15 million illegal immigrants from these databases would only make law enforcement harder. Of course, the unlicensed won't pack up and leave. They will drive without licenses, increasing insurance premiums for everyone. They will use fake IDs, buy real IDs from crooked DMV employees - as several of the 9/11 terrorists did - forge "breeder documents" to get real IDs (another 9/11 terrorist trick), or resort to identity theft. These millions of people will continue to live and work in this country, invisible to any government database and therefore the police.

Assuming that denying licenses to illegals will make them leave is head-in-the-sand thinking.

Of course, even an attempt to deny licenses to illegal immigrants puts DMV clerks in the impossible position of verifying immigration status. This is expensive and time-consuming; furthermore, it won't work. The law is complicated, and it can take hours to verify someone's status only to get it wrong. Paperwork can be easy to forge, far easier than driver's licenses, meaning many illegal immigrants will get these licenses that now "prove" immigrant status.

Even more legal immigrants will be mistakenly denied licenses, resulting in lawsuits and additional government expense.

Some states have considered a tiered license system, one that explicitly lists immigration status on the licenses. Of course, this won't work either. Illegal immigrants are far more likely to take their chances being caught than admit their immigration status to the DMV.

We are all safer if everyone in society trusts and respects law enforcement. A society where illegal immigrants are afraid to talk to police because of fear of deportation is a society where fewer people come forward to report crimes, aid police investigations, and testify as witnesses.

And finally, denying driver's licenses to illegal immigrants will not protect us from terrorism. Contrary to popular belief, a driver's license is not required to board a plane. You can use any government-issued photo ID, including a foreign passport. And if you're willing to undergo secondary screening, you can board a plane without an ID at all. This is probably how anybody on the "no fly" list gets around these days.

A 2003 American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators report concludes: "Digital images from driver's licenses have significantly aided law enforcement agencies charged with homeland security. The 19 (9/11) terrorists obtained driver licenses from several states, and federal authorities relied heavily on these images for the identification of the individuals responsible."

Whether it's the DHS trying to protect the nation from terrorism, or local, state and national law enforcement trying to protect the nation from crime, we are all safer if we encourage every adult in America to get a driver's license.

This op ed originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press.

Posted on February 13, 2008 at 5:57 AM

Comments

jdegeFebruary 13, 2008 6:53 AM

"A society where illegal immigrants are afraid to talk to police because of fear of deportation is a society where fewer people come forward to report crimes, aid police investigations, and testify as witnesses."

A society where criminals have no hesitation in talking to police because they know that the police will take no action in response to their illegal activity is a society in which the law means nothing.


Leandro Guimarães Faria Corcete DUTRAFebruary 13, 2008 6:58 AM

'A society where criminals have no hesitation in talking to police because they know that the police will take no action in response to their illegal activity is a society in which the law means nothing.'

A society which criminalize the sacred right of the movement of persons is doomed for making its law injust.

Bruce SchneierFebruary 13, 2008 6:59 AM

"A society where criminals have no hesitation in talking to police because they know that the police will take no action in response to their illegal activity is a society in which the law means nothing."

Well yes, of course. But we're not talking about criminals talking to the police about their illegal activity. We're talking about people afraid to talk to the police because they'll be harrassed or worse.

Mike ScottFebruary 13, 2008 7:12 AM

I think you're probably safer not to encourage those adults who can't drive to get drivers licenses. Blind people, for example.

J. RobertsonFebruary 13, 2008 7:17 AM

"We are all safer if everyone in society trusts and respects law enforcement."

Write on your blog before your first coffee and here's what you get.

Robert AccetturaFebruary 13, 2008 7:51 AM

I used to think I was the only one who thought this. Thanks for confirming my suspicion.

I just don't get how loosing track of millions of people helps security.

Also don't get the thing about "illegal immigrants on the road cost millions to Americans". Isn't it people driving without insurance? Which IIRC is a fair chunk of legal citizens as well. How does illegal immigration effect insurance status?

IMHO as long as you have insurance, sober, and competent I couldn't care about your nationality, legal status, age, race, sex, favorite color.

It's not like we're cracking down on all immigration either. If someone flys into the US from Europe, there's no real enforcement to ensure they return. Many eastern Europeans have been doing that since the fall of the iron curtain. It's only those from Mexico and South America. So it's not even "illegals" in general.

I'd rather the law just require you have some form of government issued identification.

If your a citizen: drivers license, passport, ss card, birth certificate, etc.

If your not a citizen: drivers license, visa, foreign passport, green card, etc.


Nothing more is really needed.

AnonymousFebruary 13, 2008 7:52 AM

@Bruce:

"Assuming that denying licenses to illegals will make them leave is head-in-the-sand thinking."

You forget that your comments are in response to an opinion of the lead prosecutor of the entire State.

This means that making illegals move isn't the point: adding another charge to the litany of the usual ones is.

And I'll have to agree with other people here about your line:

"We are all safer if everyone in society trusts and respects law enforcement."

Come now, Bruce, getting everyone to happily apply for an ID card ... uh ... excuse me, a drivers license, isn't going to make more people "trust and respect" law enforcement. These are earned properties, flowing from a myriad of other policy. For example, simply tell the police to accept reports of criminal activity, while hassling complainants on their immigration status, would do more than handing 20 million illegal aliens a drivers license.

Victor WilliamsFebruary 13, 2008 8:01 AM

"A society where criminals have no hesitation in talking to police because they know that the police will take no action in response to their illegal activity is a society in which the law means nothing."

Well yes, of course. But we're not talking about criminals talking to the police about their illegal activity. We're talking about people afraid to talk to the police because they'll be harrassed or worse.

If I an wanted for robbing a bank, should I feel safe talking to the police about an unrelated crime that I witnessed? While I tend to agree with the rest of what you wrote, lawbreaking is lawbreaking and the police shouldn't be ignoring one type while pursuing another.

jaqFebruary 13, 2008 8:12 AM

I am a (legal) immigrant. I don't have a driver's license here yet, but I got a state ID, which follows much of the same process.

When I went to apply for my state ID, the RMV clerks did try to check my immigration status. I didn't have my 'green card' at the time because there were problems in processing it, and they seemed quite thrown off by this. I had proof that would satisfy an immigration officer, but the RMV people didn't really understand.

In the end they used some faulty reasoning to decide I was allowed, and I got my ID, but it had me worried for a while. I have since heard stories of people in a similar situation being denied driver's licenses.

GreggFebruary 13, 2008 8:16 AM

Got to disagree with you. If a person is an illegal alien, they're already committing a crime. They should be deported.

An illegal immigrant has already proved that they don't "trust and respect law enforcement." In every interaction with a branch of our government, they might be gloating about how they're getting away with using our roads, schools, economy, etc - without paying taxes.

I'm not saying that our immigration laws are perfect. Wouldn't even say that they're reasonably good. Frankly, they're prejudiced and arbitrary - but they are the LAW. Lobby to change the law if you want, but don't condone and assist the breaking of the law.

jdegeFebruary 13, 2008 8:17 AM

"But we're not talking about criminals talking to the police about their illegal activity. We're talking about people afraid to talk to the police because they'll be harrassed or worse."

We're talking about people who broke the law in entering this country and who are continuing to break the law by remaining in this country. They are criminals and will continue to be criminals even if we do give them drivers licenses, and the idea that they will suddenly be more comfortable in talking to police because we've given them a DL is absurd.

They don't feel uncomfortable in talking to police because of fear of being "harassed". They feel uncomfortable in talking to police because of perfectly legitimate fears of being treated as they know they deserve under the law.

They aren't going to be comfortable in talking to police until they stop being criminals.

AnonymousFebruary 13, 2008 8:28 AM

@Victor Williams:

"If I an wanted for robbing a bank, should I feel safe talking to the police about an unrelated crime that I witnessed? While I tend to agree with the rest of what you wrote, lawbreaking is lawbreaking and the police shouldn't be ignoring one type while pursuing another."

I speed all the time. I also roll through many (bullshit) stop signs. So you do, and so do millions of other people. We are all law breakers, multiple times a day. Many of the laws you break you don't even know exist.

If when I report a burglary in progress, or someone walking around with a gun, if I can expect to be bothered about fluff like this, my thinking would be "F' it!" and move on.

Lawbreaking is lawbreaking, after all. Why draw attention to me?

However, an alternative way of proceeding is to recognize things in their perspective and everyone act sensibly on those grounds. The police undermine themselves if they treat everyone they meet, regardless of the circumstances, as a potential criminal to investigate.

I'll say though that you are in with a large contingent, including the police: they do hassle everyone, and equally. It is in fact for this reason why I did not report the two events I described above to the local constabulary.

The irony here is that I am a citzen, sporting a drivers license, and haven't even robbed a bank. Oh no!

RalsstonFebruary 13, 2008 8:35 AM


\" The state driver\'s license databases are the only comprehensive databases of U.S. residents.\"

_____________

The primary purpose of a government-issued drivers licenses has always been \'control\' of the population, rather than public safety.

So roping the last mavericks (illegal aliens) into this database makes perfect sense from an authoritarian viewpoint.

This recent issue of drivers licenses for illegals... highlights the fundamental corruption in government control over drivers & automobiles. Politicians & bureaucrats have no legitimate need for any \"comprehensive databases of U.S. residents\". But already having forced one upon American citizens, they will expand and abuse that power (...ever heard the threat of a \'National ID Card\' in the land of the free ?).

In the early years of automobiles, every American drove without any government help or control. Horses and wagons (that certainly had their own safety issues) always worked the same (free) way -- citizens did not need government permission & documentation for transportation. Massachusetts & Missouri politicians first imposed drivers licensing laws in 1903, but Missouri had no driver examination law until 1952. South Dakota politicians did not force drivers licenses until 1954, nor driver license examinations until 1959.

Government databasing & control of drivers and vehicles is itself a dangerous (unnecessary) practice in non-authoritarian societies.


TheDoctorFebruary 13, 2008 8:38 AM

Hihi,
the USA resists to implement an ID Card system instead they have a drivers license database.

Hypocrisy, thy name is america.

sooth_sayerFebruary 13, 2008 8:40 AM

I wonder why we don't just issue them US passports too?

The argument is bogus; hiding it under all kinds of mumbo jumbo doesn't make it less so.

Driver Licenses are an acceptable proof of identity; if the the underlying premise of identity is not served than it's a bogus document and states shouldn't be issuing it.

If on the other hand states DO want to Issue a drivers license with ILLEGAL ALIEN written across it .. that would be fine.

Bruce should know better; he is just too darn liberal to "understand".

Issuing driver license to illegal-aliens is not much different than issuing counterfeit money; it will reduce the value of regular licenses.

jdegeFebruary 13, 2008 9:21 AM

"I'm not saying that our immigration laws are perfect. Wouldn't even say that they're reasonably good."

True. And if you were to argue that we would be served by making the process of entering the country legally less expensive, less cumbersome, and less arbitrary, I'd probably agree with you.

But if we were to do so we'd have fewer illegals, but we'd still have some who had chosen or been unable to abide by the legal process.

And those who were illegal would still be illegal, and they'd still be wary of contact with the police or other officialdom, regardless of whether or not they'd been able to obtain a drivers license.

They fear contact with the police because they're illegal, and they'll still be illegal should we allow them a drivers license.

The claim that they'd be less fearful, and more likely to cooperate with the police, were we to allow them drivers licenses is false.


AnonymousFebruary 13, 2008 9:23 AM

@TheDoctor:

The driver's license databases are decentralized and generally contain less information than national ID fetishists would like. Also, one is not required to carry a driver's license except when driving.

@sooth_sayer:

You seem to be confusing the issue of being in the country illegally with the issue of not having any identifying documents from one's home country. Also, a passport is proof of citizenship while a driver's license is not, but you knew that.

chomskyFebruary 13, 2008 9:24 AM

Why this is a good idea and how most of the readers are missing the point.

Considering the illegal immigrants in question are already here and not giving them a license isn't an incentive to leave, what are we accomplishing by treating them as something less than human?

If they are victims of a crime, they cannot report it because of fear of being deported. If they witness a crime they cannot help the police. If they drive without a license or with a fake ID, they won't have insurance and are likely to flee the scene of an accident, that they may have caused or that might not be their fault but they were injured in.

I understand they're breaking the law by being here, but they're still humans. Denying them basic human rights and protections creates a two-class system and is a disgrace to everything this country used to stand for.

Mad William FlintFebruary 13, 2008 9:30 AM

What part of "illegal" liberals don't understand. Giving these criminals drivers licenses (or validating their existence in a way other than expediting their forced departure) gives them inroads into this society to which they are not only not entitled but explicitly, and with good reason, barred.

When they start lining up to pay taxes and become a part of this culture then I'll consider acknowledging their existence.

But until then they are creating load on an already hemorrhaging system while providing no support to it.

out.

SoWhatDoWeDoFebruary 13, 2008 9:38 AM

"A society which criminalize the sacred right of the movement of persons is doomed for making its law injust."

You mean like Mexico? (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/18/world/americas/18mexico.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print)

jkkingFebruary 13, 2008 9:48 AM

And what documents do they use to apply for their driver's license? Can we trust them to provide any 'legal' identification? Or do they just get to make up an identity out of thin air?

Garbage in, garbage out. It will devalue a drivers license as any sort of 'proof' of anything for anyone.

ScottFebruary 13, 2008 9:49 AM

>>"We're talking about people who broke the law in entering this country and who are continuing to break the law by remaining in this country. They are criminals and will continue to be criminals even if we do give them drivers licenses, and the idea that they will suddenly be more comfortable in talking to police because we've given them a DL is absurd."

I couldn't have said any better than that! My mother's family came here from Ciudad Juárez legally so we see them as criminals plain & simple.

Come on Bruce you should be able to see all the holes in your argument

Rich WilsonFebruary 13, 2008 9:58 AM

Mad William Flint wrote:

"When they start lining up to pay taxes and become a part of this culture then I'll consider acknowledging their existence."

Um, sales tax, property tax (via renting) and in some cases SS and income tax. Depending on how under the table their employer is. What about the economic benefit to their employer who gets cheap labor? What about the economic benefit of you being able to get a cheaper hamburger because an illegal butchered the cow? They are members of our society, and they are contributing to it, and benefiting from it.

Most of them are not rapists or murderers or kitten beaters. When we treat all of them as such, we make it harder to catch the ones who are. Since we don't have the resources (including our own cheap labor) to deport all of them, wouldn't it be a good idea to concentrate on the kitten beaters?

KathrynFebruary 13, 2008 10:00 AM

Yes, illegal aliens are criminals.

Are we going to deny driver's licenses to all criminals now? My sister shoplifted when she was 12 - no license for her. I have a couple speeding tickets on my record (and that's even crimes committed in a *car*!) Theft, murder, jaywalking, owning a dildo in Georgia, drinking in a dry county, abusing an animal, do these sound like reasons to deny someone a driver's license? And just how well do you think it would work to pass a law saying that if you ever broke any law it also invalidadted your driver's license? (because we're not talking about catching illegal immigrants, we're talking about their licenses.)

No, that's a silly notion. The crimes that remove your legal right to drive are ones that demonstrate that you are a hazard on the road - lack of insurance, not enough blood in the alcohol stream, etc.

Not any and all crimes, for exactly these reasons. What society wants in its drivers is a certification that they know what they are doing and a guarentee of insurance against mishaps.

Not allowing them to have legal licenses means they can't have insurance, which means we are choosing to not allow them to support "the system", endangering the rest of us for an illogical quibble. (They do pay gas taxes though, so they are paying into that.)

My passport says I'm a U.S. Citizen. My Social Security Card says I'm paying into a defunct system. My license says I can drive a car. The first two I can see denying an illegal alien - they don't get the benefits of those systems. The third? I'd rather the fellow drivers on the roads have some clue what they are doing and have Allstate on their side.

Bad GuyFebruary 13, 2008 10:02 AM

Awesome idea. I can travel the US and get 50 drivers licenses under 50 names by claiming I'm an illegal immigrant.

Then I can use those identities to wreak all sorts of havoc. Thanks Bruce.

jdegeFebruary 13, 2008 10:10 AM

"If they are victims of a crime, they cannot report it because of fear of being deported."

And that isn't going to change if we give them a drivers license. They'll still be illegal, and they'll still be subject to deportation, and they'll still fear contact with the police.

It's a bogus argument.

AnonymousFebruary 13, 2008 10:15 AM

@jkking:

"And what documents do they use to apply for their driver's license? Can we trust them to provide any 'legal' identification? Or do they just get to make up an identity out of thin air?

Garbage in, garbage out. It will devalue a drivers license as any sort of 'proof' of anything for anyone."

You say that like it's a bad thing. And of course legal immigrants or citizens are genetically incapable of fabricating their own "breeder documents". It's part of the white race or something that prevents such things from happening.

Nevertheless, Mr. King, you still manage to raise a pertinent point. Why should driver's licenses be used for identification purposes at all? Why not limit them to their original function: proof the possessor can, according to some standard, safely operate a motor vehicle? When look at in this light, of what relevance is your name -- be it real or fictional?

As noted by another anonymous contributor above, the entire DMV apparatus is entirely one of control. A system that authorized individuals to drive a car is easy to imagine and implement. Not only would it focus on the direct matter at hand, it would do so while not recording irrelevant matters like so-called "names", fixed addresses, weights, heights, locations of tatoos and so forth. It would probably be less expensive to maintain and do a better job of it as well.

jkingFebruary 13, 2008 10:22 AM

@anonymous
"You say that like it's a bad thing. And of course legal immigrants or citizens are genetically incapable of fabricating their own "breeder documents". It's part of the white race or something that prevents such things from happening.

Nevertheless, Mr. King, you still manage to raise a pertinent point. Why should driver's licenses be used for identification purposes at all? "

How did someone's race get into this?

And what color is the sky in your world? Not using a driver's license for identification? What do we use then? A Nation id with our biometric DNA? Oh, I see where this is going?

AnonymousFebruary 13, 2008 10:28 AM

@Bad Guy

"Then I can use those identities to wreak all sorts of havoc."

You say this like it's a good thing. And you know, I would agree with you! How many billions are wasted every year cut-and-pasting information from one "identity document" to another to create a new one, and then verifying the integrity of the copies? How many resources are being protected on the basis of simply knowing who someone supposedly is?

If you can go to 50 states and get 50 different identifies and indeed "wreck havoc", then you will have done us all a favor in demonstrating the peril our governments have created for us.

Go for it, I say!

AnonymousFebruary 13, 2008 10:38 AM

@kjking

"How did someone's race get into this?"

You tell me, Mr. King: are your pretending to be simply ignorant of the racial reality of this debate, or are you really ignorant of it? (Hint: very, very, few illegal aliens in the USA are from Germany, Sweden or Canada.)

"What do we use then? A Nation id with our biometric DNA? Oh, I see where this is going?"

Don't be a dimwit, Mr. King. Americans have a de facto National ID card already and it is called a "drivers license". Of what possible significance is it that the card has your name and address on it and/or a piece of your DNA, your photograph, or a fingerprint as well?

Weren't you the one moaning about the dilution of the usefulness of your drivers license for identification uses? Here we have ways to make it even better in that department ... and now you complain?

Maybe you should sit down and think for a bit about this entire issue for a bit. You might want to google up what "decouple" and "decentralize" as a start point.

RogerFebruary 13, 2008 10:45 AM

How about make the immigration process less cumbersome so that more people are likely to pursue legal status? Combine that with a consumption based tax (e.g. fair tax) and then even "illegals" will be paying their fair share (billions of dollars that are not currently being collected). Give even the illegals govt. issued IDs, because at that point what is the difference? Fingerprint them, get them in to the database. Problem solved.

Fred PFebruary 13, 2008 10:55 AM

@Kathryn-

"Yes, illegal aliens are criminals."

No, they aren't. Immigration status is not covered under the U.S. Criminal code. A small percentage of "illegal aliens" (legally, undocumented aliens) committed crimes in their entry into the U.S.A., but the vast majority overstayed legally obtained nonimmigrant visas.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/index.php/Immigration

has a brief overview of U.S. immigration law, if you're interested.

Michael AshFebruary 13, 2008 11:05 AM

@jking

"And what color is the sky in your world? Not using a driver's license for identification? What do we use then? A Nation id with our biometric DNA? Oh, I see where this is going?"

This is perhaps the most perfect example of begging the question, in the classical sense of the logical fallacy, that I've ever seen.

Why do we need to base our society on photo ID at all? Maybe we could remove the ability of the driver's license to serve as a universal ID and simply not replace it with anything.

derfFebruary 13, 2008 11:09 AM

The problems with illegals:
1) They're trespassing.
2) They're illegally using government services (medicare/medicaid/charity healthcare, social security, etc.) meant for US citizens, but without paying.
3) They're siphoning money from the US economy and sending it to Mexico.
4) Some of the illegals are abusing the justice system to commit crimes with impunity that ordinary Americans can't get away with.

A driver's license will assist these endeavors by conferring legitimacy to some of these transactions.

jdegeFebruary 13, 2008 11:20 AM

"How about make the immigration process less cumbersome so that more people are likely to pursue legal status? "

Sounds like a great idea. But even if we do so, there will still be those who either aren't able or who have chosen not to purse legal status.

There might be fewer illegals, but there will still be illegals, and those who are illegal will still interact with police as if they are illegal - and giving them drivers licenses won't change that in the slightest.

AnonymousFebruary 13, 2008 11:25 AM

Thanks for writing in Detroit. I've been wondering if the mayor's text message scandal would catch your attention.

Dean in Des MoinesFebruary 13, 2008 11:26 AM

"Of course, the unlicensed won't pack up and leave. They will drive without licenses, increasing insurance premiums for everyone."

According to this logic, everyone should should have one, whether or not they are able to drive safely - those aged beyond the ability, those with poor eyesight, those who have had theirs revoked.

But the real failure of the argument is that we aren't talking about illegal immigrants - those that have immigrated here, then stayed beyond their welcome.

We are talking about illegal aliens - those that have come here unlawfully. They have already broken our laws. And this is a true security threat.

We don't know who these people are or what their backgrounds are. Sure, some have undoubtedly come here to work hard and earn a living unattainable in their homeland. But who has come with them? Just as certainly there are some who are running from the law of their country, some who are here to collect the largess of the US government, some who intend to do harm.

Regardless of how good a tool resultant databases are, drivers licenses are one more offering making illegally crossing the border more tempting. If this country didn't offer easily attained benefits to illegals, most would not come. Combine that with building a fence and law enforcement officials would have a much easier time of detecting and removing offenders.

EVERYONE!February 13, 2008 11:31 AM

@Mike Scott

"I think you're probably safer not to encourage those adults who can't drive to get drivers licenses. Blind people, for example."

No, Mike. Bruce has made his recommendation, no matter what the unintended consequences may be.

Now, LINE UP! Be you blind, nonagenarian, mentally disabled, unable to read the English road signs because you..don't read/speak English, a multiple unlicensed drunk-driving felon, or a ridiculously bad and dangerous driver, all those concerns be damned! We have an allegiance to the State to thing about! Safety can take a back seat.

Now show me your papers!

Durable AlloyFebruary 13, 2008 11:46 AM

@SoWhatDoWeDo:

Why do you think Mexico cares about its southern border at all? Yes: political pressure from its northern neighbour.

The ultimate destination for the people is not Mexico but the US. And, Mexico could actually be doing the US a huge favor by deporting them:

"Deporting a Central American person from the US costs around $1,700, whereas deporting that same person from Mexico costs less than $22."

George Grayson, "Mexico's Forgotten Southern Border: Does Mexico practice at homee what it preaches abroad?", Backgrounder, CIS, July 2002.

Keep that in mind when you say that deporting illegals saves money to the American taxpayer.

jkkingFebruary 13, 2008 11:50 AM

@Anonymous Coward
"Of what possible significance is it that the card has your name and address on it and/or a piece of your DNA, your photograph, or a fingerprint as well?"

In the wrong hands, or used for the wrong reasons, very significant indeed, "dimwit".

ZedFebruary 13, 2008 11:52 AM

Why on earth do you think that the information on a driver's license will be any more accurate or useful than the illegal aliens other forged/fake identity information? It may feel more legitimate, but I would be willing to bet the information would be just as bogus and worthless. Why would the illegal want to start having to get auto insurance and actually be accountable for all their traffic accidents? They pretty much just walk away from all that today. They are here illegally... they like it that way... until there are REAL consequences, no matter the paper work you create... they will continue to take advantage of the system. We will be no safer, and we will continue to hemorrhage money.

dragonfrogFebruary 13, 2008 11:52 AM

@Victor Williams

"If I an wanted for robbing a bank, should I feel safe talking to the police about an unrelated crime that I witnessed? While I tend to agree with the rest of what you wrote, lawbreaking is lawbreaking and the police shouldn't be ignoring one type while pursuing another."

Of course - that's why the right against self-incrimination is an ancient one in British common law, and why it's in the fifth amendment of the US constitution. We need people to feel safe coming forth to report a crime, and testifying against the offender. If you don't like that, get the constitution changed (to the extent the constitution matters any more).

If I'm robbed in a seedy part of town, and the only witnesses are a prostitute and her prospective client on a corner, I sure as heck want them to be able to safely give reports to the cops, and testimony in court, as to what they witnessed.

Also, as has been pointed out above - "illegal" immigrants are not actually commiting a crime by their presence. They are properly called "undocumented" immigrants. Again, if you don't like that, lobby to change the law. Just don't expect your food to be affordable, your garbage to be collected, or your plumbing to get fixed without a month on the waiting list...

MikeFebruary 13, 2008 12:01 PM

I still see a bunch of people here with the "illegal immigrant \ illegal alien" bug up their arse are entirely missing the point.

Security is a balance between the costs and benefits to a particular action as it relates to safety. In this Bruce is arguing that the cost and benefits of issuing drivers licenses to illegals far outweigh not doing so vis a vis security. It will also raise our other costs - insurance etc.

He is saying nothing about the legality or illegality of what the immigrants are doing.

That being said, I'll weigh in: so-called "illegals" are only so because some state law says it. Who are they harming? They don't take jobs from naturalized Americans because they usually do jobs that Americans won't do. They send part of their earnings home for their families. Their employers get workers at cheap costs and pass the savings on to the consumer. Its a win, win win situation economically. Further as others point out, they pay other taxes and fees. They pay rent, buy cars, food, bus tickets, gasoline, and other goods. they are usually quite good for the local economy. Ostracizing them further and driving them underground will result in less control, not more.

Most of these illegals come to the US not because they can get a DL, but because relatively speaking, they can earn far more working at back-breaking labour under the table at a grape farm in California than they can in their home countries. Orders of magnitude more. As long as it is economically worth the risk, they will continue to go to the US. They will not stop until it is not longer economically feasible - until they can earn higher, perhaps comparable wages in their home countries or the US no longer can pay for their labour. Denying drivers licenses will have no effect on their decision to come to the US or remain - money will.

So, given that reality, and the reality that Bruce has demonstrated vis a vis the cost benefit of issuing DL, it makes no sense to deny them.

Funny how so-called conservatives want "free trade" in goods but not in labour. I suspect xenophobia and a touch of racism are involved.

The other consideration is that these people - who harm know one and both get and provide benefits - are illegal because of a statute.

Perhaps its not the illegals that are wrong, but the law that makes them so.

ZedFebruary 13, 2008 12:04 PM

@dragonfrog "Also, as has been pointed out above - "illegal" immigrants are not actually commiting a crime by their presence. They are properly called "undocumented" immigrants."

I beg to differ... virtually all of them commit identity fraud, tax fraud, drive without a license & insurance... and the list goes on. Every one of them leaves a large wake of illegal activity that has a dramatic effect on all those around it. Here in Texas, I bet 1 out of 3 people have be impacted personally & financially by them. In my own family, we have had two cars nearly totaled by illegals... my insurance has had to pick all of that cost up, and my auto/medical insurance continues to rise and rise every year. 'Undocumented worker' like heck... illegal immigrant committing crime after crime, yes. I would much rather pay a few extra dollars for a tomato than an extra few thousand dollars a year for insurance and medical costs. The whole cheaper XYZ argument is an empty one imho. It may make you feel warm and fuzzy to say it, but it has no basis in reality if you look objectively at the true impact.

Durable AllyFebruary 13, 2008 12:05 PM

@derf:

1. Yet companies *and individuals* continue to hire them for doing jobs no one else is willing to do. Fines and criminal charges don't seem to deter them in any way.

Have you ever watched the series "Dirty Jobs"? How many of those would you be willing to do for the salary they pay?

2. Yet most of them continue to pay sales taxes, property taxes, local and states taxes, and in some cases even federal income taxes.

3. Yet the US refuses to send economic aid to impoverished Latin American countries, making them fertile grounds for drug growing and smuggling criminal groups. And how does the US responds to that? By sending more direct *military* aid to their governments.

4. Yet I fail to see how refusing them driver's licenses will make it easier, not harder, to catch those illegal immigrants who commit crimes.

charlieFebruary 13, 2008 12:19 PM

there are several levels of "illegal Immigrants".

1. People who have been living here illegally several years, often with family. I think Bruce's arguments make sense when you apply it to them.

2. Transient workers: people who migrate up for work, sometimes for months at a time. Why should they get licenses? In terms of the damage they do on the roads -- that it is insurance problem, not a license problem.

3. Non-immigrants. This is the 9-11 people. People who are here for two weeks are want an American ID. they absolutely have no need for a license.

Moving away from a "presence" requirement to showing you have some ties to a community (you are renting, or own a house, or something like that) is probably more useful for all of us.


the real jkkingFebruary 13, 2008 12:21 PM

@jkking

"@Anonymous Coward"

Har har har. You are just as anonymous here as I am. You spell your anonymity as "jkking". I just signed this one with "the real jkking". Who is the imposter?

"In the wrong hands, or used for the wrong reasons, very significant indeed, "dimwit"."

Most Americans have their name, date of birth, SSN, weight, height, address, photograph and many other features of their lives stored in current DMV databases nationwide.

In the "wrong hands", or used for the "wrong reasons", this is already enough to screw their entire existences beyond our imagination due to a myriad of poorly designed and implemented downstream systems. (Google up "identity theft").

Adding a DNA, fingerprint, etc, to these systems would be the proverbial pimple on their asses. You might as well worry about alligator attacks while strolling around in downtown Chicago.

Listen, I told you to think more about this problem, and look at what you have done. Try again. Decouple. Decentralize. Read Michael Ash's comment, above. Right now you are simply acting like a dimwit. Are you really one? Or can you think outside the box for a few moments? Freedom awaits for those who dare.

Red-blooded CowboyFebruary 13, 2008 12:23 PM

I'm proud to say that my America-discovering. puritan-living, slave-running, injun-fightin', disease-incubating, privateering ancestors all had clean rap-sheets and all the proper papers when they moved to the USA.

And they spoke proper American, too.

jkkingFebruary 13, 2008 12:46 PM

"Real names aren't required, but please give us something to call you. Conversations among several people called "Anonymous" get too confusing."

tsk tsk. Not following the rules. I need to flag your identity in our National Database as a rule-breaker and also examine your DNA for possible known undesirable genetic attributes. Further action may be required if it is determined that you are threat to National Security. Have a nice day.

Pat CahalanFebruary 13, 2008 1:00 PM

I read the topic of this post in my RSS reader and said to myself, "Oh, boy, is there going to be a bunch of blowharding going on on Bruce's blog this morning..."

Gentlebeings, the discussion of providing *verification of the ability to drive* to a class of the populace that is also not included in the class of citizenry always devolves into ideological positioning, which does nothing (as many of the more reasoned posters have pointed out) to help enlighten the actual security issues here.

I have one question for those whose position rests solely on the position, "We're a nation of laws, they violated the law, they should be facing the consequences, I disagree with amnesty," do you agree with the 67 senators who voted yesterday to provide amnesty to telecommunications companies for violating federal law at the request of the Bush administration?

Oddly enough, a good number of the senators who voted against stripping amnesty for the telcos are the same folks who voted against McCain-Kennedy on the ideological purity stance of, "We're a nation of laws, they broke the law, they should face the consequences, I don't believe in amnesty."

I don't mind ideological positions, but I find hypocrisy disgusting.

SlartyFebruary 13, 2008 1:02 PM

Here in New Zealand we only introduced a Licence with a photograph on it about 10 years ago (part of the British tradition - a Driving Licence is a certificate of education / competence, not a form of ID... but we got over that)

Anyway, experience over the last 10 years is that the new licence has directly contributed to a much higher fraud rate than was the case when we had the old bit of paper. The reason being that the new licence is used as a form of ID.

While it is contrary to public policy, if you catch most senior law enforcement people over a beer, they will confess a) that they didn't want them in the first place and b) would love to get rid of them ... including me.

I think I know why - anyone want to hazard a guess?

[PS. Just for context, we're a wishy washy liberal country... with the second highest incarceration rate in the world after the US! But we do allow same-sex marriage and prostitution is legal :) ]

Pat CahalanFebruary 13, 2008 1:07 PM

tangent: Odds on this being the first thread to hit 200 comments for the new year are 5-4.

(wait, maybe I should double-check to make sure that's still valid...)

Moot pointFebruary 13, 2008 1:14 PM

I've driven abroad several times with my Minnesota driver's license. I strongly suspect its legal here to drive with a driver's license from another country. At least I hope so because my business associates do it. They can even rent cars!

So big deal. Drive on your home country's drivers license.

Case closed. Done deal.

JamesFebruary 13, 2008 1:22 PM

At least in regards to driving, I always thought this was an odd argument. I don't need a Mexican State DL to drive in Mexico, so why would a Mexican require a US State DL to drive here?

Though it doesn't answer the whole legal/illegal thing, the impression I've gotten is that the Mexican states are more than happy to share the DL data with the US states. They basically can drive on their Mexican state DL's.

I heard some states were foolish enough to require that you have a license from that state to get insured in that state. The state I'm in (Ohio) doesn't require that, and insurance carriers will give out car insurance on Mexican state licenses.

Moot PointFebruary 13, 2008 1:34 PM

Right, you don't need a Mexican State DL to drive in Mexico, and foreigners obviously do not need an American license to drive here.

This is obviously not about driving. Its disingenuous to pretend that it is.

Moot PointFebruary 13, 2008 1:37 PM

@Durable Alloy

then lets eliminate the "residency" requirement that limits the amount of time you are allowed to use an out-of-state DL. It sounds a lot easier than distributing 12 million new driver's licenses.

simongabrielFebruary 13, 2008 1:38 PM

For those of you that speak of how these 'undocumented immigrants' are doing jobs that no americans want, you keep specifiying about how 'no american would do that job for that pay'. That's the key point. Americans have been doing those jobs since long before this became an issue. But of course they won't do it for the wage being paid to people who don't pay taxes, and social security, etc. These so called savings benefits being passed on because the employer has to pay less wage are not being passed on, they are lining pockets.

I understand that Bruce is trying to tackle a difficult topic from only the vantage point of security, but unfortunately this topic has many facets, and it's not possible to argue only one without ignoring the others. Providing a driver's license is essentially allowing them to drive. However they don't likely have insurance, the other requisite for driving. They likely are not paying taxes which pay for the roads they are driving on. There is zero reason to allow someone who has no legal status for inhabiting this country permission to drive it's roads. Or get a job. Or attend our schools. Or shop at our stores. Or even be in this country.

If someone enters the country illegally (and yes, crossing the border without legal permission is breaking a law) why on earth are they being permitted any of our freedoms at all? Why isn't this treated equally as severely as we treat potential terrorists? What's stopping terrorists from crossing the border the same way? I mean, if we are going to be consistent, let's be consistent.

Just because someone can pay them unrealistic wage because taxes are not involved does not justify their citizenship status in our country. As long as europeans and other immigrants are forced into lengthy processes and massive amounts of paperwork, immigrants from mexico and central america should be treated the same way.

rhodeislanderFebruary 13, 2008 1:45 PM

A driver's license should be a proof of state certification of the capability to operate a motor vehicle. Nothing more, nothing less. Making it an effective national ID or even a state ID only confuses things. Not everyone who has the right to a national ID can drive, and not everyone who has the right to drive should be given a national ID. And having the state department of motor vehicles enforcing immigration laws is just silly... and for that matter so is having it aid in the enforcement of drinking-age laws. It has nothing to do with driving.

coercion tacticFebruary 13, 2008 2:02 PM

Its legal to drive here on a drivers license from another country. If they can't even get one in their home country, why should we give them one here?

This is not about driving. If anyone can get a US driver's license without proving their identity, it is rendered useless as a form of ID.

This is a lame attempt to coerce Americans Citizens into accepting a National ID card.

dragonfrogFebruary 13, 2008 2:04 PM

@Zed

"I beg to differ... virtually all of them commit identity fraud, tax fraud, drive without a license & insurance... and the list goes on."

I said they're not committing a crime BY THEIR PRESENCE. They may be committing crimes, my point was only that their presence in the country, in and of itself, is not a crime. That's why they are deported, not imprisoned.

The fact that they commit crimes is probably true. But you should ask - to what extent are the forced to commit them, and to what extent are they committing them in spite of opportunities to do the legal thing?

For example, which do you suppose would make a better approach to preventing undocumented immigrants driving without license and insurance:

(a) refusing them driver's licenses and auto insurance, or

(b) letting them pay for and receive driver's licenses and auto insurance like everyone else?

Maybe empirical observation can give you a clue as to the efficacy of (a).

The same goes for health insurance - how can you blame them that they're not paying for medical insurance, when they're prevented from doing so? I've never heard of any working class Americans (citizen or immigrant) who didn't want medical insurance.

For now, surely you should direct your complaints at the system of laws that actively prevents a significant chunk of the American workforce from contributing to the common good. Maybe once that is changed, you will have legitimate grounds for complaining about those who decline the opportunity to do so.

DepotDogFebruary 13, 2008 2:10 PM

Since the US accepts foreign drivers licenses for driving on US roads, explain to me again why we need to give non-US citizens US drivers licenses. The whole discussion is moot.

JamesFebruary 13, 2008 2:12 PM

'...calling it "one more tool in our initiative to bolster Michigan's border and document security."'

I'm more confused about why Michigan is worried about its borders...

The REAL Anonymous CowardFebruary 13, 2008 2:25 PM

The arguments against "illegal" immigration smack of hypocrisy and racism. There, I said it... here's why.

People who are arguing so passionately against "these people" base their arguments on the illegality of their presence in this country. One has to wonder whether they are really outraged at the crime itself or at the government's refusal to secure our country effectively. From a law enforcement perspective, entering the country illegally is classified a "Malum prohibitum," meaning it is illegal because we say it is, as opposed to a "Malum in se" which is inherently bad. Therefore, in the grand scheme of crimes, illegal entry into this country is on par with crimes like tax evasion, underage drinking, speeding, trespassing, prostitution, and of course sodomy (in some places.) It shares its lineage with many crimes which are rarely enforced and rarely are worth law enforcement's time. It seems hypocritical to insist that immigration laws be enforced at all costs, and then ask a state trooper to let you out of a speeding ticket, or turn a blind eye to underage drinking, or not insist that every homosexual in Georgia be thrown in jail. But in this country, we have a God given right to hypocrisy, so I will continue.

Why so much anger? These people are just trying to make a living. Sure, sometimes they commit crimes, so do citizens and legal residents, but we don't raise Cain against every African American when one commits a crime against us... not anymore at least... hopefully (Go Barack!) Characterizing illegal immigrants as criminals in the same ilk as murderers and rapists is a cheap ploy by people who can't think of any other reason to dislike them that doesn't cause more cognitive dissonance. Its easy to scapegoat people when you're attacking their "legality" and not their race but how many illegal Canadian immigrants make the news? According to the Pew Research Center (2005) 6% of all illegal immigrants are from Europe and Canada. That's 600,000 people who are more likely to be a terrorist than any Hispanic. Want to know what part of the world is least influenced by Islamic extremists? That's right, Latin America, the ideas don't translate well in the most thoroughly Christian part of the world. So why are we not building a wall across the Great White North? It's really big for one thing. My other theory is that they look like us and speak our language, and therefore don't threaten to upset our way of life. Anti-immigration advocates in this country are reacting to uncertainty and fear in their outrage at illegal immigration, but they are masking it as a "legality" issue to get over the bad taste that xenophobia leaves in their throats. This country has always resisted large waves of immigration with much of the same rhetoric as we are hearing now.

Scapegoating innocent people is much easier to reconcile that railing against an incompetent administration that you yourself voted for... twice. But we really should be blaming ourselves for this illegal immigration mess. By being entirely self serving through decades of economic policies and practices we have become so much more wealthy than our neighbors that their citizens are willing to risk life and limb to share in our prosperity. For over 100 years we as a country have manipulated the economies of Latin American countries, toppled their government, installed dictators, fomented civil wars and generally taken advantage of their weaknesses to build our wealth. Its like building a mansion in a trailer park and wondering why your neighbors are sneaking into your pool. The solution to this problem lies not in our ability to "secure" our borders, that's impossible. Instead we should be actively working to share our prosperity with our southern neighbors through increased trade and the lowering of barriers. Maybe even allowing the free flow of labor...

AnonymousFebruary 13, 2008 2:50 PM

"Since the US accepts foreign drivers licenses for driving on US roads, explain to me again why we need to give non-US citizens US drivers licenses. The whole discussion is moot."

There is no reasonable answer to that question. And if they can't get one in their own home country, then take the damn bus. I do it often myself.

Sane CitizenFebruary 13, 2008 2:52 PM

"Since the US accepts foreign drivers licenses for driving on US roads, explain to me again why we need to give non-US citizens US drivers licenses. The whole discussion is moot."

There is no reasonable answer to that question. And if they can't get one in their own home country, then take the damn bus. I do it quite often myself.

JamesFebruary 13, 2008 2:55 PM

@Durable Alloy

Well that is true, Ohio has a very weak to non-existent residency requirement. (Though I've heard the residency requirement isn't enforceable if the person "intends to return" to the other state. I've known a person who insisted on driving in California with an NM license using that, but she was a lawyer and knew the law better than I.)

Having said that, refusing to give a certain class of individuals a license but then, on the flip side, say they are illegally driving because they don't have a license, is a bit of the state having its cake and eating it too.

ZorkmidFebruary 13, 2008 3:12 PM

Bruce seems to have been fooled by the propaganda from the illegal-alien employers' lobby. They wish to hire illegal aliens for jobs which involve driving (trucks, delivery vehicles, passenger vans, etc). Right now they don't dare because drivers (any drivers) inevitably get into collisions, and any firm that employed an unlicensed driver would be liable (and perhaps criminally responsible) for the resulting damage. Indeed, employers' insurers would refuse to pay for damages caused by unlicensed drivers.

It really chafes employers that while there is no immigration-law enforcement to deter them from hiring illegal aliens for most jobs, the tort system and road-law enforcement do punish the use of (unlicensed) illegal aliens as drivers. Employers want that fixed, so they puff smoke about how lack of licenses deters illegal aliens from reporting crimes to the police.

What a load of hooey. In places like Los Angeles, CA (home to more illegal aliens than anywhere else on earth-- over 55% of LA County residents do not speak English at home), the police have been forbidden to inquire into or act upon the immigration status of anyone they contact.

By the way, the real, employer-based source of pressure to give illegal aliens driver licenses explains why none of the players care that aliens can drive themselves on their home-country licenses. It certainly is lawful in every American state (subject to various time limits) for visiting aliens with foreign licenses to drive themselves and their families or friends around. Heck, tourists rent cars and drive around the US on foreign licenses constantly. But employers may only (lawfully) hire drivers who have US licenses, so they want states to issue those to illegal aliens.

AnonymousFebruary 13, 2008 3:28 PM

Bruce says, "Contrary to popular belief, a driver's license is not required to board a plane."

Contrary to popular belief, a US issued driver's license is not required to drive in the United States. Is asking them to get a DL in their home country really too much to ask? It should be a non-issue.

And a driver's license is also not required to use public transportation or ride a bicycle.

AnonymousFebruary 13, 2008 3:34 PM

@Zorkmid

"the [LA] police have been forbidden to inquire into or act upon the immigration status of anyone they contact."

Seems like a good idea to me. For much the same way that it's a pretty good idea that EMS people don't conduct English tests prior to saving people's lives, and, as far as I know, firefighters don't sit around awaiting word that the owner of the property is an American in good standing before they unreel the hoses.

Pat CahalanFebruary 13, 2008 3:42 PM

@ Zorkmind

> In places like Los Angeles, CA (home to more illegal aliens than anywhere else on earth
> -- over 55% of LA County residents do not speak English at home)

Could you cite something to support your statistic, please? It's interesting, I'd like to see your source.

Oh, (tangent) "language spoken at home" may or may not directly correlate to "immigration status".

avFebruary 13, 2008 4:02 PM

Umm, how did any of this turn into a 'liberal' or 'conservative' thing? Bruce is looking at this from a security and safety perspective. Much of the discussion so far has been missing the point.

Damon RileyFebruary 13, 2008 4:39 PM

I have little patience with people who argue that "the law is the law" and that if someone is an undocumented migrant, then he or she deserves no humane accomodation, and that this person's deportation is required to maintain justice. Yet thousands Native Americans were tricked, or had their leaders bribed into treaties, or were forced at point of bayonnet and gun to leave their lands so that European Americans could migrate to them.
Just as the federal government did little to honor treaties and prevent its citizens from migrating to Native American lands, the federal government has done little to prevent Mexicans and other people from migrating to these same lands. What are states supposed to do in light of this? States like Maryland have issued drivers licenses to its residents for the safety of all because it's the smart, humane thing to do. Spare me the "illegal is illegal" rhetoric when it's so plain that legality in this case of migration matters but not in the other.
There are many millions of people in the United States today who are not here legally. To capture them all and drive them from the land would be an appalling pogrom that would be no less horrible because it was legal. It would be the Indian Removal Act part II.

NostromoFebruary 13, 2008 4:43 PM

Let me spoil the fun by supplying some facts.

As someone already pointed out, you don't need a US driver license to drive a car in the US, any more than you need a Maryland license if you live in Pennsylvania and commute every weekday to Baltimore. Most US states have a law that says you need that state's license after you have resided in that state for longer than some specified period. They can't reasonably require that you have to have a local license as soon as you take up residence there, because that would make life extremely difficult for the many people who relocate.
In practice this means that you can drive with an out-of-state license (including a non-US license) almost indefinitely. The limitation is more likely to come from the state that issued your license, not the state you live in. For example, if you have a Maryland license, you have to renew your license in person every 3 years. If you live in California it is probably easier for an American to just get a CA license, instead of going to MD to renew the MD license. In some countries, when you renew your license, the new one is mailed to your address in that country. Again, you would have a problem if you no longer had such an address.
Bottom line: State driver's license databases are NOT reliable databases of information about US residents. They were never intended to be.

simongabrielFebruary 13, 2008 4:56 PM

To "The REAL Anonymous Coward "

"Scapegoating innocent people is much easier to reconcile "

They are not innocent people. You specifically compare them to people that get caught speeding and drink underage. Both are crimes, and depending on the extent are treated very severely. Yet you argue that these 'innocent people' should be allowed to continue breaking these laws of entry across our borders simply because you want to be able to get out of speeding tickets or give kids licquor. You are calling us the hypocrite while playing the fool yourself.

"but we don't raise Cain against every African American when one commits a crime against us... "

Last I checked it's not the race status (until you brought it up) but rather the point of entry, and the overwhelming majority of the 'illegal immigrants' being of a certain ethnicity. I don't see any comments of "all these criminal mexicans" but rather 'illegal immigrants'. At least in the discussion you are rebutting.

"Its easy to scapegoat people when you're attacking their "legality" and not their race but how many illegal Canadian immigrants make the news? According to the Pew Research Center (2005) 6% of all illegal immigrants are from Europe and Canada."

6 whole percent huh? Wow that's quite an impact. If you are making a meal of that 600,000, then what about that probably 8 million to 9 million that are coming across the southern border? You mention that terrorism doesn't get along well in latin america. Been to South America lately? Land of the militant uprising and drug cartels?

"Want to know what part of the world is least influenced by Islamic extremists? "

This was your counter, except that it is now you being naive and using race as a motivator. Last I checked islamic extremists are not the only radical terrorist outfits in the world (unless you wish to believe the DHS, I choose not to). And this runs right at Bruce's original security basis for his op-ed. If that many people can cross the southern border (several million) then it is easily possible that terrorists (of all flavors) have easy access across our border and into our country. And this has nothing to do with the ethnicity of the current illegal immigrants.

" Instead we should be actively working to share our prosperity with our southern neighbors through increased trade and the lowering of barriers. Maybe even allowing the free flow of labor... "

I have to ask.. why? From a purely nationalistic perspective, why should we crutch our southern neighbors? If they cannot run their countries effectively, why should we continuously bail them out? And to blame us for all the faults of mexico, central and southern america isn't exactly accurate. Other countries have done as much or more than we have.

And I'm still waiting for a compelling argument as to why we should not be requiring people to commit to being a citizen of this country if they want to take from the fruits of our labor? Contribute to the pot, take from it, IMO. If you aren't paying taxes, social security, contributing to our infrastructure beyond taking up a job slot and shipping your money back across the border, is it really relevant that you are willing to scoop up garbage cheaper than the locals?

wtfFebruary 13, 2008 5:00 PM

since when do YOU advocate the use of giant collections of personal data for law-enforcement, anti-terror and other purposes?

dragonfrogFebruary 13, 2008 5:08 PM

@simongabriel

"And I'm still waiting for a compelling argument as to why we should not be requiring people to commit to being a citizen of this country if they want to take from the fruits of our labor? Contribute to the pot, take from it, IMO. If you aren't paying taxes, social security, contributing to our infrastructure beyond taking up a job slot and shipping your money back across the border, is it really relevant that you are willing to scoop up garbage cheaper than the locals? "

I heartily agree - extending citizenship to all currently undocumented guest workers would improve the situation immeasurably.

cricket23February 13, 2008 5:12 PM

A society which criminalize the sacred right of the movement of persons is doomed for making its law injust.

Posted by: Leandro Guimarães Faria Corcete DUTRA at February 13, 2008 06:58 AM


What right of movement? We are a nation of borders and laws,they have no right of movement except in their own country!

simongabrielFebruary 13, 2008 5:26 PM

Please don't twist my words dragonfrog:

"I heartily agree - extending citizenship to all currently undocumented guest workers would improve the situation immeasurably."

This is not what I said at all, and I wholeheartedly disagree! These people chose not to follow the lawful process of becoming a citizen the first time, and instead entered the country like a thief in the night. So you wish to then congratulate then on sneaking across our border illegally by then allowing them to bypass the proper process of gaining citizenship? And on top of this, also not deporting them like someone who entered the country illegally should be?

Oh, and to those that argue that there are simply too many to do this, is that even a logical answer? Well, we've screwed up so badly and for so long, we can't fix it now. Sounds like a certain 'surge' in the middle east to me. Perhaps you people are also Bush apologists? "trust us, we will eventually be successful in Iraq!" I call BS on that, just like I call BS on the notion that we can't deport these lawbreakers because we waited too long.

Oh, and to the person that tried to use the forced immigration of native americans as an excuse (pardon, I mean reason) why we can't move the immigrants _back_ over the borders of our country: a) that's not even the right metaphor, it's not like the native americans moved onto our land and we pushed them back. The forced migration of native americans is an entirely different atrocity, not a metaphor for this. b) These people chose to risk deportation to cross our borders without permission. So how is it wrong to carry out the punishment that they inherently were aware of?

Pat CahalanFebruary 13, 2008 6:11 PM

@ simongabriel

I don't know how you evaluate the concept of proportional punishment, or personal choice.

You're arguing that, "These people chose not to follow the lawful process" ergo "deporting them is what we must be doing".

This is logically a different argument than "These people chose not to follow the lawful process" ergo "punishing them for this failure is justified".

In the first case, you're deciding to discount both the reasons for the choice that they made, and the effective consequences of the punishment you're demanding.

> to those who argue that there are simply too many to do this, is that a logical answer?

It may or may not be, but simply discarding the question out of hand may or may not be logical (depending upon your system of logic) but it likely isn't rational. If the cost of rounding all the undocumented people up and sending them home outweighs the benefit that we may or may not get from doing so, it's certainly rational. It's definitely practical. It may not satisfy your own person sense of justice, which may be understandable.

That doesn't make it illogical.

jFebruary 13, 2008 7:05 PM

At the same time that we are encouraging American Citizens to use public transportation and conserve energy to reduce green-house gas emissions and traffic congestion, you want to encourage 12-20 million illegal immigrants to drive cars and trucks around by issuing them valid driver's licenses?

You've gone mad.

Peter E RetepFebruary 13, 2008 7:20 PM

Thank you for coming through on this issue.

Denying driver's licenses as a policy keeps immigrants from taking the test and becoming insured. Therefore, they don't even try to learn the standards and practices that drivers are tested for in each state. This also prevents people in many accidents from having insurance protection after the fact.
When driver's licenses used to be used as authorization instead of identification, anyone driving over 30 days was required to get one, whether tourist or traveler or whatever, and anyone and everyone was welcome to, in order to make driving safer. People driving frequently across state lines were often required to have a license in both (all) states.
Today in the American Southwest, about 1 driver in 4 is driving uninsured, mainly because they are denied getting licenses by policy, so they can't buy insurance.
This doesn't change who they are, or where they are, or how they got there, but it does cause everyone to live in more danger from the otherwise same circumstances.

HoraceFebruary 13, 2008 7:28 PM

Since when has there been a irrevocable nexus between having a driver's license and insurance. Tennessee found that were issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens who purchased insurance to satisfy the license issuing agency but subsequently quit making their quarterly payments. Tennessee no longer issues driver's licenses to illegal aliens.

Issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens debases the use of such documents as areliable means of identification. Often illegal aliens have more than one driver's license under different names.

Issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens is wrong on principle of law. Since such documents effectively aid and abet illegal aliens in maintaining their presence in this country it is manifestly a violation of immigration law to do so.

Someone posted a statement referring to a driver's license as a human right. No such right is recognized by this country or any other on this planet, including Mexico.

Someone stated that these illegal aliens have a right to move globally without restriction. Few Americans would agree with the advocates assertion. It is patently untrue, as no nation on this planet recognizes such a right. Persons do have the freedom to move to other countries, but not without restriction, and only with the permission of the receiving nation. The right to control immigration and national boundaries is a sovereign right of every nation. Wars have been fought and treaties and international laws enacted to prove that fact. WWII, WWI, and the Korean War were fought over the right to control national boundaries, as were countless others. In much of the world if you wish to start a war, just declare that your neighbor's right to exclude you is null and void.

As far as discouraging cooperation with the police is concerned, it is just one of those unfortunate traidoff sacrifices to achieve the end result of nation free of unwelcome visitors. Once they're gone, the delemma will be solved.

AnonymousFebruary 13, 2008 8:41 PM

@Horace

"Tennessee found that were issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens who purchased insurance to satisfy the license issuing agency but subsequently quit making their quarterly payments. Tennessee no longer issues driver's licenses to illegal aliens."

What happens when white people start pulling the same stunt? Do we outlaw DL's to whitey?

Or do you think it would be time to properly fix the security hole?

"Issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens debases the use of such documents as areliable means of identification. Often illegal aliens have more than one driver's license under different names."

Wake the heck up, dude! The documents already are an unreliable means of identification. And are you the only one shocked to find that (gasp!) some white people also have more than one license? That there are more than a few non-illegal types driving around without a license at all?

Again, the solution to these problems is not proscribing licenses to identifiable classes, but to fix the security holes. There are good reasons why conflating the "driver license" and "identification" functions is a bad security idea in the first place, why using tokens that can not be verified by most people is a bad idea, and so on.

"As far as discouraging cooperation with the police is concerned, it is just one of those unfortunate traidoff sacrifices to achieve the end result of nation free of unwelcome visitors. Once they're gone, the delemma will be solved."

The practical effect is the withdrawl of basic security services. That happens to be a human rights violation by almost all rational standards (e.g., UDHR section 3, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.")

Simply being in a country without all the proper paper work is not (ultimately) a death sentence. If you say it is, then I say parking violations should be subject to lethal injection, jay-walkers ought to be stoned to death on the spot, and ... well, feel free to pick any aspect of Sharia law you appear to like.

CosFebruary 13, 2008 8:44 PM

I'm ... amused, I guess, by all the commenters here who label people "criminals" for having crossed a border without authorization or overstayed their visa or something like that.

These are misdemeanors. I bet not a one of these commenters has gone their whole life without breaking some laws. Most people in the US have in the past shoplifted some piece of candy from a store, driven faster than the speed limit, or had oral sex before Lawrence v. Texas legalized it.

Are all of us "criminals" who have no respect for the law? Should you be afraid of dealing with the authorities, and denied a drivers license, if you've ever broken any law at all? Should the RMV be required to investigate your history to determine that you've never broken a law before giving you a license?

It's insane, what passes for sensible in some of these comments.

problem solverFebruary 13, 2008 10:41 PM

A much, much better idea is to offer the National ID card to illegal immigrants, not citizens.

Those who wish to come out of the shadows could do so. They could use it to pay taxes, open bank accounts, etc. Those on the up and up, could get bonus points towards citizenship.

Also, has anyone done an environmental and economic study on the impact of adding 12 million new drivers to our highway infrastructure and energy use?

I agree with a previous post, "take the damn bus," or better yet, ride a bike.

JamesFebruary 13, 2008 10:44 PM

@ Horace

I spent the last half hour trying to find out why TN's certificate for driving program was eliminated, and couldn't find anything that suggested what you were saying (that it lead people to get the CFD's, get insurance, and then drop the insurance.)

If anything, it seems to have been a political manoeuvre. But perhaps you have a source I have not been able to find.

33 year INS/DHS/ICE manFebruary 13, 2008 10:58 PM

The comments below are coming from a highly respected individual in the DHS/ICE/INS community... I'm just reposting them here.

Well, I could talk for hours on this. The trouble is everyone wants a simple solution, deny them all or issue to all. It's never that simple. The last project I had before I retired was chairing a multi-agency working group to "standardize the security features" in all 50 States driver's licenses. This is part of the "Real ID" law passed by congress because of 9/11.

First, I personally don't think that an illegal should reap any benefit. So, I would not automatically issue driver's licenses to them. But we are not going to round up 10 million people, house, process and deport them. So I believe that we should have a system where they come forward, get properly identified and start a process to either deport (if they are criminals) or have them become legal residents. Once they are properly "documented" and in the process I would allow them to obtain licenses.

The real concern is the application and issuing process at the DMV's. Part of my recommendation to the working group was that it would be a requirement that all DMV officials (in a issuance capacity) be vetted and must "successfully complete" a document training course. The application process is where the vast majority of the fraud takes place. Even if you allow illegals to have licenses, what would you require, if anything, for proof of identity. "I was smuggled over the border and all I have is my Mexican birth certificate". How would the DMV person know that the document is actually his/hers. Also, true criminals (foreign and domestic) with warrants are not going to apply in their true names. So the DMV officials must be properly trained to detect fraudulent documents. If you issued a genuine driver's license based on a document that is not the true bearer, that person/criminal now has a new "clean" identity. Also, he mentions that verifying an aliens status takes hours and may be incorrect. Every DMV office could have a Green Card Authenticator which instantly reads the optical stripe which verifies the cards authentic and checks a biometric against the applicant.

My recommendations where pretty strict regarding what one could provide for proof of identity. It's been a long time and my memory may not be accurate but it was something like this. U.S. citizens: US passport or "State Issued" birth certificate. Legal Residents: Green cards. Foreign visitors/students: Their National passport reflecting their Immigration status. By dramatically reducing the number of documents it makes it easier for the DMV authorities to become "experts" in identifying them.

The "State Issued" birth certificates was to be given a future start date because we wanted to do the same thing with State birth certificates as we were attempting to do with the driver's licenses. That is make the issuance process more secure and standardize the security features for all 50 States. Right now there are approximately 8,000 different versions of US birth certificates in circulation at one time.

I could go on and on but those are some of my thoughts.

Pat CahalanFebruary 13, 2008 11:35 PM

> Also, has anyone done an environmental and economic study
> on the impact of adding 12 million new drivers to our highway
> infrastructure and energy use?

What, you don't think that they drive now?

RonKFebruary 14, 2008 12:39 AM

@ Robert Accettura

> How does illegal immigration effect insurance status?

Presumably, insurers refuse to insure drivers who drive illegally without licenses. An important piece of information which is missing in this debate is what percent of illegal aliens have driver's license and what percent of those with licenses have insurance.

Perhaps the lack of this information is why Bruce seems to gloss over this benefit to society?

@ sooth_sayer

> I wonder why we don't just issue them US passports too?

Nice strawman, but you should have gone one further and asked why we don't issue them FBI IDs... and the fact that I can "one-up" your strawman is clear evidence that there is no such thing as a context-less "acceptable proof of identity". The whole point of Bruce's argument is that if the context of "driver's license" explicitly does not include "legal resident of the US", society gains.

Your reply totally ignores both Bruce's argument, and the example he states (Michigan) which indicates that in many states the status quo is that illegal aliens _can_ obtain driver's licenses, so your saying

> Issuing driver license to illegal-aliens is not much different than issuing counterfeit money; it will reduce the value of regular licenses.

is silly; you should have argued instead that "refusing to issue driver's licenses to illegal aliens will _increase_ the value of licenses". Of course, you'd have to address several points Bruce makes in regard to this idea.

> he is just too darn liberal to "understand".

And you seem to be too darn anti-liberal to actually address his arguments...

JamesFebruary 14, 2008 2:06 AM

Interesting thing I just realized.

From the article:

"The 19 (9/11) terrorists obtained driver licenses from several states, and federal authorities relied heavily on these images for the identification of the individuals responsible."

Umm. I'm not entirely convinced that was that useful. It's lovely to see how they smiled in their driving license photographs, but the value of having the photos after they were long gone is about nil.

averrosFebruary 14, 2008 2:22 AM

...and of course nobody asked by what exactly right the State gets to control who is allowed in.

If I as employer invited someone to work for me, and other people are willing to provide housing and sell goods to the person, what exactly State is doing by telling us "this person cannot come"?

The entire issue of immigration is nothing more than artifact of large-scale social engineering conducted by "our" central planners. Fire the social engineers, and the issue will go away on its own.

cassielFebruary 14, 2008 3:16 AM

I'm confused.

Encouraging all Americans (immigrant or not) to carry driver's-licence ID will improve security, whereas enforcing Real ID will worsen security.

What's the difference?

AndrewFebruary 14, 2008 3:53 AM

We can end illegal immigration right now. Go into offices and arrest HR managers and take them away in handcuffs for forging I-9s.

No cheap labor, no cheap jobs.

Why target the employees rather than the employer? Vulnerable population, moderates supply and demand.

PaeniteoFebruary 14, 2008 7:19 AM

@averros: "...and of course nobody asked by what exactly right the State gets to control who is allowed in."

This is one of the central rights attributed to sovereign nations. In fact, IMHO this is more or less what defines sovereignty.

cricket23February 14, 2008 7:45 AM

"Their employers get workers at cheap costs and pass the savings on to the consumer. Its a win, win win situation economically. "


The facts
are that illegal aliens do come across our borders
illegally and get jobs with stolen Social Security
numbers.They then sent 25 billion dollars a year back to
Mexico, at the same time holding out their hand for public
assistance.When an illegal alien female has a child here in
the United States the baby is an American Citizen and
entitle to the same benefits as other Americans,with the
stolen Social Security card illegal aliens can access those
same benefits.Under Federal law illegal aliens are entitle
to basis medical care,also by Federal law their children are
entitle to an education in our public schools It costs the
American tax payer around 45 billion dollars a year to pay
for those benefits, Free medical care,WIC, Rent
assistance,Food stamps, and Translators and free lunches for
their children in our public schools. American cities along
our Southern border provide free emergency medical care for
Mexican citizens, and what do the pregnant Mexican women do
in return ? They come across the border to have their babies
( American Citizens). How about Elvira Arellano and her
child,she was deported came back,had the child and return to
work with a stolen Social Security number,she also had been
in our country for 10 years,but had to have a translator at
her news conference! Earlier last year illegal aliens
demonstrated in the streets of our cities demanding amnesty
by flying the American flag upside down below the Mexican
flag and carrying signs saying "this land is ours Gringo"
Those same Mexicans didn't stay in their own country and
fight the injustice they face there.

matt aFebruary 14, 2008 7:53 AM

@James - The photographs were useful when the FBI traced back how the terrorists moved thru this country and others. These terrorists used fake names and aliases so the FBI used the pictures to verify where they went, who they met, etc.

cricket23February 14, 2008 7:59 AM

Right! Hart-Celler Act hearings 1965 Quote: Senate immigration subcommittee chairman Edward Kennedy (D-MA.) reassured his colleagues and the nation with the following:


"First, our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same ... Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset ... Contrary to the charges in some quarters, [the bill] will not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area, or the most populated and deprived nations of Africa and Asia ... In the final analysis, the ethnic pattern of immigration under the proposed measure is not expected to change as sharply as the critics seem to think."

Sen. Kennedy concluded by saying,
"The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs." (U.S. Senate, Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization of the Committee on the Judiciary, Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 1965. pp. 1-3.)

problem solverFebruary 14, 2008 8:01 AM

@Pat
"> Also, has anyone done an environmental and economic study
> on the impact of adding 12 million new drivers to our highway
> infrastructure and energy use?

What, you don't think that they drive now?"

Call me optimistic, but I like to think that at least some illegal immigrants obey the other laws we have.

JamesFebruary 14, 2008 9:39 AM

@ matt

I think they had other picture archives as well, though I'm still not on board that it was all that useful.

EarlFebruary 14, 2008 10:57 AM

Interesting pattern:

They won't obey immigration laws so lets give them amnesty.

They drive illegally without a license, so lets give them drivers licenses.


whats next? I dunno, but I hope they smoke pot.

RealistFebruary 14, 2008 11:59 AM

What you're proposing is akin to saying that drunk drivers with suspended licenses should be issued a driver's license so that they can be identified.

The problem is that a driver's license is widely accepted as a document proving legal residency. Mexicans can already drive legally in the US using their Mexican Passport, so the driving issue isn't valid.

Your arguments in favor of licenses are no different than those used by the national ID card proponents. You can't have it both ways - either you're for a national ID card or you're not. Make up your mind!

matt aFebruary 14, 2008 12:17 PM

@james - the photos I've seen look like standard DMV types. The point is that they are in the DB somewhere. Most of the 911 hijackers came here legally and got IDs legally so when it came time to figure out if there were more whack jobs running around one of the tools the FBI could use was their drivers' licenses. Credit cards, hotel stays, rental cars, deposits, applications for jobs, etc all require a driver's license ID. When the FBI sees discrepancies, they can use the photo id to see if people recognize the face with a different name and see what leads that information brings. Its all about finding the network that provided the terrorists with the ability to execute 911. I agree with Bruce, letting them get IDs lets us track them better and gather more info on them...

SavikFebruary 14, 2008 12:35 PM

We should allow and encourage illegal aliens to get driver's licenses.

Then go round them all up. Put them on a boat...though heavy seas...and drop them off on a beach in the southernmost part of Mexico.

I bet they won't come back.

Pat CahalanFebruary 14, 2008 1:29 PM

@ Realist

> What you're proposing is akin to saying that drunk drivers with suspended licenses
> should be issued a driver's license so that they can be identified.

Not at all, and you're clearly misreading what he wrote.

First of all, people with suspended licenses are already in DMV databases, so there's no need to give them a license.

Secondly, (and a few other people have been confused by this as well, apparently) the point isn't that people *should* be identified, and that's why we should give them licenses. The point is that *if* we give them licenses, we get the ancillary benefit of having them be in a DMV database, which can be useful. He then goes on to illustrate that most of the arguments *against* driver's licenses have logical flaws, so there is no reason not to give a license to anyone that qualifies. This isn't a "we can get a benefit so we should do this" argument, this is a "People argue against this for flawed reasons, so we should do this... and if we do we get additional benefits" argument.

> The problem is that a driver's license is widely accepted as a document proving
> legal residency.

Yes, that's precisely the problem. However, it should not be used this way, because the DL itself and the process for issuing it is not suitably robust for this purpose. All of the attempts we're seeing currently to *force* a driver's license into this use case are shoehorning lots of additional burden into the driver's license process, and they can't solving the problem - fundamentally, this is bolting a huge additional requirement onto the document that it was never really designed for in the first place, at a gigantic additional cost, with no real benefit.

It makes much more sense to instead say, "A DL cannot be used to prove residency", and then go ahead and give them to people who have demonstrated that they know how to drive. It should be (as Peter noted above) an Authorization token, not an Identification.

> Your arguments in favor of licenses are no different than those used by the
> national ID card proponents.

They're in fact fundamentally completely different, you're not reading it through. Bruce is proposing that you use a DL to *authorize people to drive*, and as a side bonus you get additional access to data. National ID proponents are arguing that you give a national ID to people to *authoritatively authenticate who they are*, and then every single authorization process (can they drive, are they a resident, can they drink, can they enter a federal building, can they fly, open a bank account, get employed, Rudy's infamous "get online" comment, can they walk and chew gum at the same time...) all this can be linked to this document, and that's okie dokie because it is a single authoritative authentication mechanism.

Every rational security person shudders at this, because the authoritative authentication token then becomes the golden key to the castle. If I can forge one, I can completely hijack someone else's identity. If I can get one issued to me when I don't actually deserve it, I get a ton of additional privileges automagically.

Compare this to just saying, "No, a DL lets you drive and that's it". Now if I forge one of those, all I get is the right to drive. Much, much less threat.

Yes, it means that to prove identity I need a bunch of paperwork. A DL, a birth certificate, a copy of a recent bill, a passport, my most recent paycheck, whatever... but it is significantly more work to forge a body of documentation.

Pat CahalanFebruary 14, 2008 1:35 PM

@ Savik

> I bet they won't come back.

If someone lives in a hovel, and their children don't get enough to eat and don't have a chance to ever improve their lot in life, and the opportunity exists for the hovel-dweller to astronomically improve their quality of life, you can bet any some of money you want that a substantial portion of people who are in this state are going to take that risk.

"they" might not come back, but those 12 million jobs are going to be screaming for someone to do them, and 12 million job seekers are going to come and find them.

simongabrielFebruary 14, 2008 1:47 PM

""they" might not come back, but those 12 million jobs are going to be screaming for someone to do them, and 12 million job seekers are going to come and find them."

And as long as employers (let's be honest, these are the real crooks here) are willing to hire people not legally allowed to work in this country, and pay lower than allowed wage, these people will flock to the country, and money will siphon out of the country. Not just a loss of tax revenue, but also the money streaming right out and back across the border.

jdegeFebruary 14, 2008 2:18 PM

"If someone lives in a hovel, and their children don't get enough to eat and don't have a chance to ever improve their lot in life, and the opportunity exists for the hovel-dweller to astronomically improve their quality of life, you can bet any some of money you want that a substantial portion of people who are in this state are going to take that risk."

That is undeniably true. And there will always be people willing to break the law in order to escape intolerable situations. But given their illegal status, the situation they are entering into in the US isn't much better.

Of course, their employers love them, because they can be paid zilch, treated like slaves, and have little recourse.

We need to fix our legal immigration system, no question. But more than that, Mexico needs to fix its economy and clean up the corruption in its political system.

But none of that has anything to do with issuing drivers licenses.

J. PicardFebruary 14, 2008 2:25 PM

@Bruce
"Well yes, of course. But we're not talking about criminals talking to the police about their illegal activity. We're talking about people afraid to talk to the police because they'll be harrassed or worse."

Illegal aliens ARE criminals, so yes, that's exactly what we're talking about. Amnesty for criminals. Anyone caught driving without a driver's license should be punished; illegal aliens caught driving without a license should be deported post haste. Do not pass go, do not collect your next welfare check.

Richard BrandtFebruary 14, 2008 3:38 PM

"An illegal immigrant has already proved that they don't 'trust and respect law enforcement.' In every interaction with a branch of our government, they might be gloating about how they're getting away with using our roads, schools, economy, etc - without paying taxes."

If they have a job, how are they getting away without paying taxes? Instead, taxes are likley being deducted out of their paycheck, for example for a Social Security which they'll never be able to collect.

Wake up. All this hysteria about "illegal aliens" is the same kind of distraction the powers-that-be trot out when the economy is in hard times. You aren't losing your job because someone desperate to keep his family from starving crosses the border to pick lettuce, lug bricks or clean hotel toilets. Big fat corporations are sending your jobs TO Mexico...or China, or India, or Malaysia.

What "Anonymous Lawbreaker" said. You've never driven one mile or more over the speed limit? Ever walked across the street when the light said not to? Like everyone else, you decide which laws you respect and which you don't.

simongabrielFebruary 14, 2008 4:51 PM

"What "Anonymous Lawbreaker" said. You've never driven one mile or more over the speed limit? Ever walked across the street when the light said not to? Like everyone else, you decide which laws you respect and which you don't."

And like everyone else, when you break the laws you don't respect and get caught, you get punished for breaking those laws. Stop trying to trivialize the laws they are breaking, and stop trying to play the 'humanitarian' card to justify their lawbreaking.

Yes, sometimes some of us break laws from time to time. I happen to actually be one of the few people I see on the highway that doesn't speed. But there have been times when I have gone above the speed limit, and I also know that if I get caught doing it, I pay for it, in that case, a ticket. When people break laws they should be punished for doing so. Trying to use the apathy of "we all break laws" is neither comparable nor an excuse. And you really believe the people picking lettuce and cleaning toilets are even using fake SSNs? Most likely they are being paid cash, because that's easier to deny later than phony SSNs which tie to paperwork. Paying cash you can ignore taxes, minimum wage, social security, all of that. And when an employee being paid cash gets hurt, there's no responsibility. The answer isn't allowing these 'illegals' to work/drive/etc, the answer is sending them back to follow the process correctly.

J. PicardFebruary 14, 2008 5:44 PM

"The answer isn't allowing these 'illegals' to work/drive/etc, the answer is sending them back to follow the process correctly."

Exactly. That's the core of the matter, everything else is just FUD.

JamesFebruary 14, 2008 6:33 PM

@ matt

I guess what I'm looking for is an amazingly good reason for why the DMV should maintain a database of the photographs of (essentially) every person over the age of 16. I think the maintenance of such a database is perverse and unconscionable.

At least in regards to those who apply for US visas, those photographs were maintained for years.

Pat CahalanFebruary 14, 2008 7:08 PM

@ simongabriel

> And like everyone else, when you break the laws you don't respect and
> get caught, you get punished for breaking those laws.

I do not have a problem with this chain of thought, as I previously mentioned.

> Stop trying to trivialize the laws they are breaking

I don't believe that most people are trying to "trivialize" the laws that they are breaking (agreed, some are). There is a difference between "trivializing" and "putting in perspective".

You have yet to say much that provides a reasonable estimation of the cost to society of this law being broken, yourself.

> Stop trying to play the 'humanitarian' card to justify their lawbreaking.

I for one am not trying to "justify" the lawbreaking. I am pointing out that motivation for the crime (which includes humanitarian concerns) plays a part in determining how big a threat the lawbreaker is to society, which is an indicator for the proper amount of punishment for the crime committed.

It's a pretty basic concept of justice, and we have multiple compensating factors built into our justice system for precisely this reason, such as the power of clemency.

> the answer is sending them back to follow the process correctly.

You're relying on a tautology.

They broke the law, ergo they must be punished. The (only suitable by your definition) punishment for breaking this particular law is deportment.

You're defining "punishment" as "deportment". This is a fallacy, and you feel justified therefore in saying that anyone who doesn't agree that deportment is *the* suitable punishment is therefore *against* punishing people for breaking immigration law.

If you're not going to accept that "punishment" could mean *anything other than deportment*, then there is not much point in continuing this discussion.

Unless you'd like to discuss what other crimes (in terms of severity) warrant deportment. Where does breaking immigration law fit on the scale of crimes? Less than assault and battery? Then we should deport anyone who commits assault and battery.

simongabrielFebruary 14, 2008 8:00 PM

"If you're not going to accept that "punishment" could mean *anything other than deportment*, then there is not much point in continuing this discussion.

Unless you'd like to discuss what other crimes (in terms of severity) warrant deportment. Where does breaking immigration law fit on the scale of crimes? Less than assault and battery? Then we should deport anyone who commits assault and battery. "

Two separate arguments that don't back each other up there. For A) what other punishment is there for not following immigration policy and entering the country illegally is there? I mean if we deport sometimes, why not all the time? What's the difference? As for argument B) what does assault and battery have to do with illegal entry into the country? We have jails and other punitive measures for A&B. The current punitive process for illegal entry into the country is deportation. Both are treated correctly.

Do YOU have a better punishment for illegal entry into our country? And no, magically making them citizens is not punitive in the slightest bit.

no go in nogoFebruary 14, 2008 8:38 PM

Bruce,

I think you are wrong on this one. Not here legally - you get nada, zero, zip. Anything else is back-door citizenship.

The really bad guys are going do what they do no matter what. You know that as much as anybody.

You've got tunnel vision on your risk. Greed, avarice, entitlement cash hemorrhaging and gutting of the constitution are the greater threat to this country.

JimFiveFebruary 15, 2008 10:04 AM

> I'm more confused about why Michigan is worried about its borders...

Maybe because Michigan has several hundred miles of International border called Lake Huron and Lake Superior.

I understand that there's also a fairly big migrant worker population for the cherry and apple harvests.
--
JimFive

Nothing NewFebruary 15, 2008 10:06 AM

Adressing multiple points...

1) Foreign nationals can drive legally in this country with an International Drivers License. They can also buy insurance. Very few illegal alliens choose this option.

2) Yes we have illegal aliens from all corners of the world. However, 95% of them are from South of the Border, mainly Mexico. If we had 15 million illegals from Lithuania, we would be branded as anti-Lithuanian racists.

3) 1, 10, 100 illegal aliens isn't a big problem. 15 million is. That is why so many people are upset at Mexico--the overwhelming source of the problem.

4) The US will always have a problem with hoards of illegal immigrants from Mexico, becuase they have no significant middle class and crippling levels of corruption.

5) People from Mexico do not trust the police because their culture conditions them to beleive that all police are corrupt. This is one of many reasons the majority will not apply for a US drivers license if offered.

6) bulding up a database of where all the illegal aliens live will not cause them to trust the government.

7) If I get caught speeding, I humbly accept my punishment. Illegal immigrant activists say breaking the law should not only go unpunished, but is actually a fundamental right. Mexico is much harsher in the treatment of illegal aliens caught in their country.

8) No matter how we might try to reach out to illegals, most will choose not to cooperate. There will always be a permanent under class separated by language, culture and group ethics.

9) if amnesty works, why is the problem 10 times larger than in the 1980's?

10) Special Order 40 in Los Angeles prohibited police from asking immigration status. It did nothing in terms of illegal immigrants aiding police. Most fear retribution from gangs more than the police.

11) illegal immigrants do pay some taxes--generally consuption taxes. Many avoid paying income taxes via made-up social security numbers and other forms of fraud.

12) the benefits burden caused by an illegal alien far exceeds their economic benefit. The average California taxpayer pays $1000 towards benefits for illegal aliens, yet saves $0.03 (litteraly) on a head of lettuce. Many studies have proven this.

13) illegal aliens send billions of dollars to families in Mexico, not into the American economy. Vincente Fox retired a billionare. His hipocracy is breathtaking.

14) we already have a guest worker program

15) we already have a path to citizenship

16) 85% of illegal aliens do not want to be part of American culture. They work hard for some things, and take as many freebies as they can. Many return to Mexico to "retire"

17) if you must risk your life to escape a country, why do you wave it's flag instead of the country you escaped too.

18) The jobs "americans won't do" are jobs that we cannot do at sub-standard wages. If you think illegals do not drive down wages and push citizens out of job, you are just dilluded. Just because someone runs over the border does not mean a job just got created for him. It's basic supply-and-demand.

19) employers who hire illegal aliens treat their benefits (health care, etc.) as an externality--forcing the taxpayer to pay for what the employer should be responsible for. They should be prosecuted. Token enforcement is not enough.

20) even after the last amnesty, Uninsured Motorist Insurance was still a necessity.

21) In California, you rarely see expired tags on cars. You cannot renew your plates without insurance. Illegals either forge documentation or buy a 1 month policy to get around the requirement.

22) we cannot deport *all* illegal aliens--This is true. But that doesn't mean there shouldn't be an honest effort. If you accept the premise that we cannot deport them all so we shouldn't try, then why should we bother going after say... murders?

23) it is not racist to expect someone to be held accountable for their actions.

23) I do not blame illegals for choosing to come here, I just wish they would respect all our laws and man-up when they are caught.

24) Illigal immigrants all made a choice to come here. Surely their options were not good, but that does not absolve them from responsiblity for their actions. Do not force yourselves upon us; choose only the convenient laws and social norms to follow; abuse our giving nature; then tell us we *have* to do more because you have a *right* to do things your way.

MartinWFebruary 15, 2008 11:11 AM

You are all missing the point. The Wild West was won by Americans expanding from the east and displacing the local communities - Mexicans and Native Americans. These so-called illegals were here first. We stole their lands and their homes first. Now we are telling them they can't even come back and work - when their labor is vital economically to the western states. Who is the real illegal here?

I am a legal British immigrant. I have contributed several major inventions and a 30-year career here and my son was born here. I have always paid into tax systems and social security, Medicare, etc. Many so-called illegals are working, and taxes are deducted from their income. They have paid into social security, but cannot claim any benefits. Isn't that a form of robbery? Isn't robbery illegal?

The British have for decades resisted the idea of a national identity card, for good reason. See "1984" by George Orwell.

Pat CahalanFebruary 15, 2008 11:52 AM

@simongabriel

> A) what other punishment is there for not following immigration policy
> and entering the country illegally is there?

As pointed out above, violating your visa or sneaking across the border without passing though a checkpoint is not a major crime. A link to immigration law, for your perusal:

http://www.uscis.gov/propub/ProPubVAP.jsp?dockey=cb90c19a50729fb47fb0686648558dbe

These essentially qualify as minor crimes, with penalties ranging in the few hundreds to a few thousands of dollars in fines. In fact, you can wind up paying a significantly larger fine for speeding in a carpool lane without your seat belt on in California than you would for overstaying your visa.

There are plenty of other possible penalties and punishments that can be levied for immigration violations other than deportment. Given the effective consequences of deportment, it represents an egregious over-punishment for what is effective a misdemeanor crime.

> I mean if we deport sometimes, why not all the time? What's the
> difference?

This is a ridiculous question. We execute people for some crimes and others. Why not all the time? What's the difference?

> What does assault and battery have to do with illegal entry
> into the country?

Assault and battery is a crime. Illegal entry into the country is a crime. If deportment is a suitable punishment for one crime, why isn't it a suitable punishment for another? Seems to make way more sense to deport people than imprison them, it certainly saves a lot of money and removes the trouble of having to figure out how to rehabilitate them.

> The current punitive process for illegal entry into the country is deportation.

This is factually incorrect (or at the least vastly oversimplified) and at any rate is yet another fallacy. Just because something is (or is not) the way things are done now does not make it the correct way to do things (it's essentially an appeal to tradition).

SatexFebruary 15, 2008 1:39 PM

Dear Bruce,
As always, reading CRYPTO-GRAM is very educational and enjoyable. This month, I had to response to your 2/15 piece regarding Giving Driver's Licenses to Illegal Invaders.

Let's start with some terminology clarifications, these people aren't "illegal immigrants", they are "illegal invaders". Grouping them with our proud legal immigrant population is an insult to the millions of people, who worked hard, and legally to obtain status and join the American family. These people broke our laws by disrespecting our sovereign borders - i.e. invading, and continue to do so, by driving illegally on our roads, not paying taxes, and circumventing the law and order that makes our great country what it is today.

1) First, you approach your conclusions from a security perspective, but you fail to address the social impact of this issue. This issue addressed the fact that we do not reward law breaking and legitimize criminals. Many can argue that a Driver's License is nothing but a permit to operate a motor vehicle - but in nowadays reality, we all know that a Driver's License is the gateway to the country.
2) This issue has stemmed from the false belief that if illegal invaders had driver's licenses they will carry insurance. This is a baseless claim. If they disrespect and break pretty much any other law - why would they chose to respect this one? You can ask law enforcement about encounters with such people. All law enforcement can do, is ticket then and release them. The tickets are never paid.
3) This issue has an underlying political agenda, but this would not be the appropriate place to discuss it. Security is nothing but a Trojan horse for the cause.
4) Suppose for a minute that they did have a driver's license. How would LE benefit from it? If anything, the fact that a person doesn't have an driver's license could help law enforcement determine that he is here illegally and take appropriate action.
5) You claim that denying illegal invaders won't protect us from terrorism. I make the counter claim that providing them with driver's license won't protect us either.
6) You claim that denying illegal invaders license won't make them leave. I agree, but giving them the license will be a bad example for a social reward for bad behavior. Is that the kind of behavior you want to encourage?
7) You claim that even an attempt to deny licenses to illegal immigrants puts DMV clerks in the impossible position of verifying immigration status. Well, here in California, legal status is a requirement, and DMV officials don't seem to have a problem with it.

Peter E RetepFebruary 15, 2008 2:44 PM

posted here only by permission of the author:

Security Takes a Person - - -

(c) by Alex Khan 2008, all rights reserved

Like some verbs take an object,
As fear needs an object,
Each thought empties without them,
Security is always for whom?

All it takes to create a terror state
Is for one to be beyond account -
Not having to answer to anyone
For everything that's done.

The K-G-B, Gestapo, the [-blank-] Party Police,
That's enough to blind us,
Us makes Them, more limited, by rights,
Superior or Inferior, Lider or Victim -

Above the Law, Beyond the Law,
If either moves outside our law,
El Presidente, or Vice-President, all
Documentados, become outlaws, all.

That's all that's needed to create
A power-bully terrorist state.
So, bullies have their uses.
Why do you, and the rest, object?

As a matter of course, it's economics.
A secret police state needs four:
(1) The secret police (2) makes secret arrests,
(3) Dark questionings, and (4) trials, beyond the law.

We all slip up in life now and again,
We're happy to have others solve our problems.
What's the big deal? We get the job done.
You just go on, and run along.

If Security takes a person from all of us
By day or midnight to where we can't follow,
For causes he or she can't argue,
The Outlaws take security from us all -

Until we all discover the Enemy is Terror,
Until we all discover those forever words,
That our recursive enemy is Fear itself,
That we have met the enemy, and They is Us.

Does our flag, streaked with brave blood,
Still flly against darkness?
Does our flag, star-lit with bright laws,
Still wave to the brave for all, free?

Damon RileyFebruary 15, 2008 4:55 PM

@ Satex:

Satex wrote: "2) This issue has stemmed from the false belief that if illegal invaders had driver's licenses they will carry insurance. This is a baseless claim. If they disrespect and break pretty much any other law - why would they chose to respect this one?"

By your logic, if someone breaks any law, then they'll break every law. I don't think that makes any sense logically nor do I see that happening in reality. People who spit on the sidewalk aren't just as likely to be counterfeiters or carjackers.

See my comments above about legality.

Can we instead focus practically on the problem of 12 million fellow human beings that our federal government has allowed in? Shall we start a pogrom or shall we get past our binary sense of injustice/justice and treat these people humanely?

I can think of worse things we could do than allowing illegal immigrants to stay and become legal. For example, we could spend 373 million dollars a day on a foreign war. My point is that there are bigger problems in our world than having people here illegally, and that this "immigration crisis" is mainly a "crisis" because Lou Dobbs says so.

Nothing NewFebruary 17, 2008 9:29 AM

@MartinW

Congratulations and welcome. You Sir, exemplify the difference between legal and illegal aliens. You came here to better yourself and this country. Illegals only come here for self-interest--many studies show this.

Now for my diagrement... The events you describe occured over 150 years ago. Right or wrong, we've paid in one form or another ever since. How long must we keep paying? By the same token, the British government should pay the US for past abuses of the Colonies, or pay African Americans for the money the British made from slave trade.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo put the southwest in the hands of the US. We paid money for it; the treaty was legally ratified by both Nations; and it has stood the test of time. What was obviously lost, is the lesson of uncontrolled immigration. Back then, only a few 100,000 people lived here. Now it's over 40 million. Do you really support reconquista?

Nothing NewFebruary 17, 2008 9:42 AM

@Damon Riley

You're right that illegals do not break every law, but wrong that they only break one. Varioius forms of fraud, tax evasion, driving without insurance and more. All things they could avoid within our current system, but only if they *choose* to do the right thing (they don't)

So when do you draw the line... After all 4 billion of the worlds poor are on our soil expecting hand-outs?

You must not live in California, over-crowded schools, jam-packed freeways, emergency rooms shut down, Spanish on our ballots, budget shortfalls, the smell of pee outside our Home Depots, hit-and-runs and unisured motorists. Illegals don't cause all those problems, but they do have a significant impact. The average illegal costs the tax payers 1 million dollars during his stay. Read the studies before claiming they have no impact.

SatexFebruary 17, 2008 10:24 AM

@ Damon Riley

"Shall we start a pogrom or shall we get past our binary sense of injustice/justice and treat these people humanely?"

Progrom, how in the world did you come up with that? I absolutely agree with you that we need to treat these people humanely. We should escort them to the nearest border with Mexico in the most human way possible. We should also wave good-bye humanely as they make the trek back.

"For example, we could spend 373 million dollars a day on a foreign war."

How is this relevant to the discussion?

Durable AlloyFebruary 18, 2008 12:25 PM

@Nothing New:

The US did not "purchase" more than half of Mexico's territory 1848; they invaded a neighbour country, waged war against them, and then forced them to make the sale. Trying to describe it as a peaceful transaction between two nations is intellectually dishonest.

Nothing NewFebruary 18, 2008 2:47 PM

@Durable Alloy

My point must not have been clear (I assumed you would research some of the finer details). Allow me to restate it...

Facts: the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo: ended the war; transfered ownership of the territory to US; transfered money to Mexico; was ratified by both governments. I *never* said "peaceful." Regardless of how it was started, it is legal and has been that way for over 150 years.

But let's look at how it did start. We did not *just* attack Mexico and take it's land. To describe it as such is intellectually dishonest (there's that word again.) There is a lot of history there, but in summary: we annexed parts of the territory after the territories succeded from Mexico; The territories succeded after various revolts; The revolts started when US (legal) immigrants we being treated unfairly by Mexico. Before you claim ID on my part, compare the treatment they got (taxation, forced religion, corruption) to today's illegal immigrants (healthcare, welfare, education, lax enforcement of immigration laws, politicians scrambling for their vote--despite not being citizens)

Today, groups like La Raza (The Race--gee, that doesn't imply a racism on their part does it?) promote the idea of Reconquista--flood the land with immigrants, stage a revolt and reclaim the land for Mexico. Reversing the process that happened 150 years ago. It's a matter of pride for them.

So let's say you advocate Reconquista, you are basically supporting the overthrow of our government by unconstitutional means, and subjecting 40-50 million of people to war (on the order of 100,000 people lived in all the territories during the Mexican-American war.)

This is what I meant by "some of the lessons of uncontrolled immigration were lost"

Cheese PuffsFebruary 19, 2008 4:56 PM

We can't give rewards like drivers licenses to people who come here ILLEGALLY, it undermines national security and allows for our laws to be broken. Why not just not have laws if you're not going to follow them? These laws are here for a reason and we should stick with them and not intice people to break them

Durable AlloyFebruary 20, 2008 8:49 AM

@Nothing New:

"...we annexed parts of the territory after the territories succeded from Mexico; The territories succeded after various revolts..."

True only in the case of Texas. Read again your history books.

"The Race--gee, that doesn't imply a racism on their part does it?"

So who comes next in your list? The AJC? The NAACP?

"...promote the idea of Reconquista..."

The NCLR has never advocated the so-called "reconquista". You're mistaking them for a radical group, "La Voz de Aztlan".

"The revolts started when US (legal) immigrants we being treated unfairly by Mexico."

So what will happen if the US continue treating legal Latino immigrants unfairly?

Nothing NewFebruary 20, 2008 6:31 PM

@Durable Alloy

"True only in the case of Texas."

Fair enough, California succeded from Mexico after the war started. You could argue we took advantage of the situation, some Americans probably encouraged it for alterior motives, But the point remains... We didn't *just* invade Mexico. Besides, that happened so long ago, it doesn't justify an invasion today.

"So who comes next in your list? The AJC? The NAACP?"

You would never know which race they are talking about without knowing who the group is. So to call it *the* race implies a sense of superiority to me. YMMV.

"The NCLR has never advocated the so-called 'reconquista'. You're mistaking them for a radical group, 'La Voz de Aztlan'."

Fair enough, but there is a degree of overlap. Both encourage illegal immigration, both tell them they should be unhappy, the only difference *I* see is how far they are willing to take it. Can The Race stop it if things get out of hand?

"So what will happen if the US continue treating legal Latino immigrants unfairly?"

So suddenly this is about today's *legal* immigrants? I'd love to know how badly the United States treats legal immigrants such that we can expect a revolution...

You seem to have missed my point about how immigrants were treated in the 1850's versus illegals today. Order of magnitude difference.

Here'a an idea... let's discourage illegal immigrants from comming here in the first place so we don't have to find out how many it takes to start a revolution. As for being treated unfairly... they know getting caught may result in deportation. But they decided the reward is worth the risk. How is it unfair to hold them acccountable for their actions? Anything less than deportation creates a back-door security mechanism. Maybe for the test they should be asked the name of Paris Hilton's dog ;-)

doing research (:March 1, 2008 4:16 PM

Can anyone get me information on illegal immigration & how it effects education and health care? I would really appretiate it. Thanks.

jonnyMarch 12, 2008 6:20 PM

immigrants are not 'criminals' because in case you've forgotten, most of them make an honest living, have families, and have social lives. not providing them with basic identification is just unconstitutional. However, they can get Their Tax ID regardless of their status because the government only cares about money. I have many immigrant friends and none of them ever robbed a bank or have ever been in illegal activities. Most of the immigrants who cause problems I'm sorry to say, are Puerto Ricans. More than half of them live off the state anyways. What ever happened to the constitutional statement "all men are equal"? What the Government is trying to do is get you all to lose focus of what really is going on. This implements the war, the fact that they constantly raise gas prices and when complaints begin they lower them back down, then up again. how can people be so racist to people that provide them with cheap labor? Have you forgotten that if the Mexicans didn't work in plantations your food would triple in price? Have you forgotten that your brand new house was more then likely built by immigrants? Have you forgotten that most immigrants DO pay their taxes? I could make a list of 1000 things that they contribute to society and that they help you financially even do you don't even realize it because most of you are just seeing stereotypes!!! As a matter of fact, 80% of immigrants who come here legally and stay here legally and mostly are Puerto Ricans are the ones who don't pay their taxes. I HATE STEREO TYPES AND RACISM!!!! so please people, be considerate and think of what you're doing, because 97% of these illegal immigrants are helping the country financially.

BaconMarch 14, 2008 8:12 AM

@Johnny

Which do you hate more? "Racist" statements or Puerto Ricans?

You fail to mention the social services the illegals consume. Those costs are significantly higher than any taxes they might pay. The cost of labor to produce food is only 10% of the price. 3 cents on a head of lettuce isn't trippleing the price. I would gladly pay that instead of thousands of my tax dollars going to their health care, education, welfare and incarceration of the criminal illegal aliens. What I might have saved on a new house cost more in tax money helping unemployed American citizens because their wages were cut from underneath them. Of course the several people you know aren't responsible for any of those things.

BaconMarch 14, 2008 7:06 PM

I would also like know where in the Constitution it says drivers licences are a right. Besides, passports are available from your home country. And what happened to "created" in "all men are ____ equal". Hypothetically assuming the Constitution applies to everybody in the world, being "created" equal still does not give someone a right to enter here on their own terms.

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