Feds Play Needless Game of Chicken with Public Safety in Utah

By Dan Cadman on July 7, 2015

A few days ago, the Salt Lake Tribune ran a story detailing how the state of Utah enacted legislation requiring background checks to determine immigration status before issuing driver's licenses. The law was to go into effect on July 1st. It didn't.

The legislation ran counter to recent actions taken by many states that go out of their way to grant driver's licenses to illegal aliens — for instance California, where activists tried vigorously to find ways to circumvent the federal Real ID Act and blur the distinction between licenses granted to illegals and everyone else, even though it would put the traveling public at risk by making it impossible for TSA inspectors to discern the difference between the two documents. (To understand the risks posed by such documents, see the two excellent blogs by Jon Feere here and here.)

One would think that the federal government would approve such measures given the state of affairs in America today, when the FBI director publicly calls on state and local governments to aid in investigating and combating Islamic State directed and influenced terrorists because there are so many his agency can't handle the matter alone. After all, anything that compromises the security of documents used to gain access to airplanes should be a matter of grave concern; conversely, anything that lends levels of security to the driver's license issuing process should be applauded. As Feere has noted, "the 19 9/11 terrorists had nearly 30 driver's licenses among them, each with varying information."

So does the federal government approve of measures such as Utah's? No. The Tribune reported that the FBI has refused to allow Utah to conduct the checks using the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database routinely used by state law enforcement and regulatory agencies, saying it's against policy. "It [the FBI] will not allow Utah to use the FBI criminal database as long as it plans to share results with any other agency — even if it is with a fellow federal agency like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)."

In a recent blog commenting on the senseless murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by a multiply deported, multiple-felon illegal alien from Mexico, I expressed my frustration with people who hide behind such statements, because there is nothing sacrosanct about stupid policies. Change them.

What happened in San Francisco should be a wake-up call to the folks in the FBI who run the NCIC system: You're playing with fire. Would you really prevent all Utah agencies from accessing the system and risk letting a wanted felon go free so that Utah doesn't catch illegal aliens trying to commit document fraud (which, by the way, is also a federal felony offense)? Do you want to be responsible for a brutal murder such as Kate Steinle's? What. Is. Wrong. With. This. Picture?

Of course, if the Department of Homeland Security had any chops, it could resolve much of the problem by simply giving Utah's motor vehicle bureau direct access to its massive database and cut out the middleman. Maybe that will happen in some more reasonable parallel universe, but we know that isn't going to happen in this one given the Obama administration's willingness to chuck public safety to the wind as long as illegal aliens are not inconvenienced in any way, shape, or form.

This brings us to the Davis-Oliver Act bills pending in both the House and Senate. Each of them carries a common-sense provision in Section 103 that authorizes and directs use of the NCIC for information about all immigration violators. It's past time for Congress to move these bills forward.