OpinionEditorial

Unlicensed drivers and impounded cars

Crime, Law and JusticePoliticsImmigrationJustice SystemLos Angeles Police DepartmentJobs and WorkplaceLuis A. Alejo

Last April, the Los Angeles Police Department adopted a new approach to the problem of unlicensed drivers, many of whom are barred from ever obtaining a license because of their immigration status. Under the rule, known as Special Order 7, police officers are authorized to impound the cars of unlicensed drivers (as they always have been), but those drivers who have no prior violations and can provide proof of insurance may retrieve their cars as soon as they pay the impound fees, rather than waiting 30 days. Police Chief Charlie Beck said the change was designed to relieve the unfair burden that impounds placed on people living in the country illegally.

That policy, however, didn't sit well with the union that represents police officers and a conservative watchdog group, both of which filed a lawsuit challenging the rule. Now, a Los Angeles judge has found in their favor, ruling that Special Order 7 is illegal because it is preempted by state law.

This page supported the LAPD policy as both reasonable and practical, and we're dismayed that the judge struck it down. But it was never a perfect solution. A far more sensible approach to dealing with the problem would be to enact legislation that allows immigrants, regardless of their residency status, to apply for and receive driver's licenses. A driver's license doesn't confer legal residency; it merely tells law enforcement authorities that the person behind the wheel of that car has passed a written exam and a driving test and is qualified to be on the road. Granting licenses to noncitizens would also help address the unfair reality, as documented in 2010 by the the Center for Investigative Reporting, that most of the drivers losing their cars at checkpoints for not having a license were sober immigrants who were driving perfectly well.

AB 60, introduced by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), would provide driver's licenses regardless of citizenship status. Some critics will argue that such a law will only reward lawbreaking. But that ignores the fact that undocumented immigrants are already here and are already behind the wheel. Wouldn't we all benefit if those drivers are trained, capable and insured?

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
Crime, Law and JusticePoliticsImmigrationJustice SystemLos Angeles Police DepartmentJobs and WorkplaceLuis A. Alejo
  • Obama's trump card on immigration
    Obama's trump card on immigration

    The president can push ahead on reform without Congress.

  • Hiking L.A.'s minimum wage is a no-brainer
    Hiking L.A.'s minimum wage is a no-brainer

    Of all major cities in the country, Los Angeles has the highest percentage of population living in poverty. After decades of slow job growth and stagnant wages, 28% of Angelenos — 1 million people — today live below the poverty line. Our city's African American and Latino...

  • The government vs. the Constitution

    The American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations recently filed a lawsuit accusing the federal government of, among other lapses, denying due process to mothers with children detained at the border, including interfering with their efforts to obtain legal advice to guide them in...

  • Has L.A.'s economy come back?
    Has L.A.'s economy come back?

    Among those who know Los Angeles' economy best, there is one point of agreement: The city is slowly recovering from the 2007 collapse. It was seven years ago that a national housing and financial crisis triggered the worst economic downturn of this generation, and it hit L.A. hard....

  • The new battle over Blair Mountain -- with lawyers instead of guns
    The new battle over Blair Mountain -- with lawyers instead of guns

    In late August 1921, long-running tensions between pro-union miners and anti-union West Virginia coal operators erupted into an armed confrontation totaling well over 10,000 men, a mess of bullets and a still-unconfirmed number of dead and wounded during five days of gunfighting at a spot...

  • Dreaming of meaningful work
    Dreaming of meaningful work

    A high school senior, Carlos is already a promising carpenter. He is volunteering at a Habitat for Humanity site, assembling the frames for the bedroom walls, the boards for one frame laid out neatly in front of him. He measures the distance between them. Measures again. Then he drives one...

Comments
Loading