Should undocumented immigrants be allowed to drive in Los Angeles?
If the LA police commission votes Tuesday to change the city's impound policy to lessen penalties for unlicensed drivers, separate driver's licences for undocumented immigrants could be the next step.
The commission is expected to approve LAPD Chief Charlie Beck's proposal to allow undocumented immigrants who are stopped for traffic violations or at a checkpoint to call someone to retrieve the car rather than have it impounded. Under the proposed policy, if an undocumented immigrant's car is indeed impounded, it would be kept for 24 hours, costing the driver $250, rather than for 30 days, which can cost the driver more than $1,300, NBC reports.
To receive the lesser penalty, unlicensed drivers must have valid ID, insurance and registration; they cannot be a fault in a collision; and they cannot have any prior convictions for driving without a license.
Beck proposed the policy last fall upon urging from immigration activists who argue the existing policy discriminates against undocumented immigrants, ABC reports. Beck agrees, saying that the impound fines and wait times are unfair to undocumented immigrants who can't obtain a license in the first place. As depicted in the video below, immigrant activists have taken to warning drivers of checkpoints ("reten" in Spanish) with signs and media.
However, opponents say Beck's proposal rewards immigrants who are in the country illegally and makes the road more dangerous. City Councilman Mitch Englander, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee, is a strong opponent. "Studies show the unlicensed driver will be back behind the wheel. I don't want blood on my hands, and I don't know how many more deaths and injuries have to occur," Englander said to Mar Vista Patch.
Another group of opponents is the LAPD union, or Police Protective League, which accuses Beck of “political correctness” and failing to consult the union before pushing the proposal, KPCC reports. In a letter to the department, the union argues that lessening penalties will endanger the public.
Beck went further than this proposal last week, saying that California should issue separate driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. With Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LA County Sheriff Lee Baca in agreement, Beck argued that giving provisional or nonresident licenses would improve safety because undocumented immigrants would be required to pass the state's license testing process, the Los Angeles Times reports.
UPDATE: The Los Angeles Police Commission has approved Beck's proposed impound policy, with a 4 to 1 vote.