Until Congress takes up the task of comprehensive immigration reform – which, despite repeated entreaties, has zero chance of happening until (long) after the next inauguration – we’re probably going to have a lot of stories like this one out of California. Thanks to a new reader from Russia, Ivanovich, for bringing it to my attention. To do what he did, click on “Tips” at the top of this page and fill out the form.
Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) signed a bill that would grant drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants. See, that’s the headline you’ve probably seen everywhere, but it gives you only a very superficial understanding of the story. The people who would qualify for licenses are the same people who benefit from President Obama’s deferred action program granting new work permits. Supporters use road safety to justify the move, plus the obvious unfairness; opponents would rather see the feds act. (Duh.)
The sad part of state-based action on illegal immigration is that opposition will always amount to “Oh, let’s just wait for the federal government to do something.” Meanwhile, granting drivers’ licenses is a state responsibility, as is education and many criminal and labor laws. Plus, the feds have had four years to do something; consider the half-comprehensive DREAM Act, which is in legislative limbo. That argument is now, officially, a cop-out.
The best way to make sure these people (who we will call DAIs, or deferred action immigrants) stay law-abiding is to make sure they’re allowed to abide by these state laws. That’s the same reasoning behind the Trust Act, which would “have protected illegal immigrants from deportation if they committed minor infractions.” Brown vetoed that one, but only because he disagreed with the list of serious felonies that would be grounds for deportation. They’re going to work on that one.
So far, he’s the governor who’s handling the DAI issue best, although I wish he’d be half that effective when it comes to balancing California’s books. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the competition:
Several Republican legislators objected that [the anti-deportation] bill would have removed a valuable tool for ridding California of lawbreakers.
Maybe they can make up for it with a bill to deport foreign-born celebrities who love driving drunk. Hell, throw the natural-born ones in there, too.
Deporting DAIs for every little screw-up is a drain on California’s resources, not just the act of deportation itself, but the benefits on which the state could miss out by getting rid of otherwise law-abiding people with the potential to be good citizens. It doesn’t make up for federal inaction, but it’s something.