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Archived: Time to Approve Drivers Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

Prior to 1960 all motorists were allowed to apply for a driver’s license and they were given one if they met all the requirements.

This fact allowed police to identify drivers stopped for traffic infractions, found to be driving under the influence or without insurance or without a driver’s license. It also made it possible for those drivers to obtain auto insurance.

This newspaper has repeatedly endorsed the passage of legislation to allow undocumented residents to receive a California driver’s license if they pass all the tests and requirements needed to obtain one. As we have said again and again, it’s in the interest of safety that we believe all California drivers should be licensed.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and LA County Sheriff Lee Baca among other officials have been frustrated by the fact that many drivers in accidents cannot always be identified, nor have they been able to stop people from driving without a license.

You can’t register a car or force a driver to get adequate insurance if the owner of the vehicle does not have a valid driver’s license. This makes little sense to us, since rather than improving public safety on our roads, the prohibition is actually causing unlicensed drivers out of fear of losing their car to violate more laws, such as fleeing the scene of an accident, event when not at fault.

The issue has been so vilified by those who are either anti- or pro-illegal immigrants, that it has become nearly impossible to discuss the policy without raising outrage.

Given that reality, we applaud those brave officials who have nonetheless dared address reality, and speak in favor of allowing undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license as a matter of public safety.

An example of why its good to have all drivers licensed and all autos registered occurred on Tuesday night, when during a police pursuit of a driver who failed to stop ensued. Police were able to identify the car’s owner and address because the car was registered. They were able to identify the driver who didn’t own the car and get a name and address from his family. The pursuit ended with no violence whatsoever.

The idea of having two different kinds of licenses so that an undocumented immigrant can’t use it for identity purposes, such as one with “I” to identify someone as an immigrant, is sure to lead to racial or immigrant profiling, which should not be tolerated.

Allowing undocumented, unlicensed drivers who are undocumented to get a California driver’s license is a step toward safer roads, and one we are all for.