The past months have ushered in a new chapter in the immigration debate centering on the question of allowing illegal immigrants to obtain state-issued driver’s licenses.
Not only is this practice unfair, but it could potentially be dangerous to the entire American public.
First of all, as we all know by now, “they’ll do it anyway” is not an acceptable argument. The same argument has been used in favor of doing away with victimless offenses – such as prostitution and drug use – and has yet to work.
Furthermore, driving illegally, unlike vice crimes, is potentially dangerous to people other than the driver, as the illegal driver does not know the rules of the road.
By driving without a license, alien drivers are now committing two crimes simultaneously: driving without a license and being in the country illegally.
When they get pulled over for a road violation, it is their third offense. They should be punished the same way as a drug user who also possesses drug paraphernalia would be.
Proponents of this change in the law will say that issuing licenses to illegal immigrants will ensure that these drivers will know the rules of the road and therefore make the roads safer.
To a certain degree, they are correct. Illegal immigrants will have the knowledge to drive.
However, they will not necessarily be safe drivers. The driver’s license knowledge test in New Jersey is offered in a number of languages and permits the use of an interpreter for other languages.
This represents a fatal flaw in this system, as road signs are only in English.
It is easy to identify certain signs, such as stop and yield signs, by their shape and color scheme. Some, like deer crossing signs, do not contain any words at all.
However, information and warning signs, such as detours, parking rules and “bridge freezes before road surface,” all require some knowledge of the English language.
Because legal immigrants need to pass citizenship exams in English, they have the ability to interpret these sorts of road signs; the first-language exams are merely more convenient for them.
However, illegal immigrants do not have a responsibility to be minimally proficient in English and therefore will still pose some danger on the road.
In a similar vein, issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants is unfair to the 900,000 legal immigrants who enter this country every year. These people have taken the time to fill out the myriad forms, have paid the fees (which, depending on the person’s status, can amount to over $2,000) and have waited to be granted permission to enter the country. With a backlog of over 600,000 applicants (as of 2003), this wait time may be months.
Put yourself in their shoes. You have gone through the work, wait and stress of the application process, all with the knowledge that your entrance could be denied.
Now, the benefits you have put in a substantial effort to obtain are being given to someone who bypassed all the wait and work.
Offering the same privileges to legal and illegal aliens is inherently unfair to legal immigrants.
In the post-Sept. 11 era, issues such as this one are important on more than just the superficial “fairness” level. Issuing licenses to illegal aliens creates security problems.
If an illegal immigrant is given a state-issued driver’s license, he now has a form of identification that does more than merely allow him to drive.
In California, where this proposed change could soon become a reality, a person can purchase a gun with only a driver’s license.
What if a terrorist posed as an immigrant and was granted a license?
Driver’s licenses are used by all states as proof of age, residency and citizenship status.
This creates more problems for the legal citizens of California. Some states may no longer accept California driver’s licenses as forms of identification, penalizing law-abiding citizens for others’ disregard for the rules.
Allowing illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses is foolhardy, at best.
It creates new problems for legal residents, lessens the importance of following immigration laws and poses a potential terrorist threat.