States have a role to play when it comes to the issue of illegal immigration, and the choice is simple: Should states encourage or discourage illegal immigration? The latest move by the District of Columbia is to encourage illegal immigration and illegal hiring practices by providing driver's licenses to illegal aliens. I discussed this topic on American University's WAMU Radio alongside D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Maryland State Senator Victor Ramirez (D-Prince George's County), and Brad Botwin, Director of Help Save Maryland. The complete interview is available here. A small clip is available in the video below.
The effort to grant illegal aliens driver's licenses is being sold to the public as one that would improve public safety by giving illegal aliens the opportunity to take a test at the DMV. But the effort is really aimed at providing illegal aliens all of the benefits usually provided only to legal residents. It is part of a state-level amnesty that, when combined with sanctuary policies and other benefits, sends the message that illegal immigration is just as legitimate as legal immigration. In some sense, it's a rejection of citizenship, sovereignty, and the rule of law.
Of course, there are many reasons why D.C. politicians should not be supporting illegal immigration.
For example, Councilor Cheh stated that there are 25,000 illegal immigrants living in D.C., some of whom are holding jobs. What she did not mention is that there are over 30,000 people in D.C. who are unemployed. If the city wanted to reduce that unemployment it could free up thousands of jobs by mandating E-Verify, a free, easy-to-use online program that law-abiding businesses across the country are using. It would have the effect of holding law-breaking businesses accountable and probably result in wages going up as these companies worked to attract D.C.'s legal residents to the jobs. After the radio interview I asked Councilor Cheh whether she might consider introducing an E-Verify mandate, but she said she hadn't considered it. Perhaps that will change, but in the meantime law-breaking businesses are undoubtedly happy that the D.C. council is allowing exploitation and illegal hiring practices to go unchecked. As the councilor stated, one goal of granting illegal aliens driver's licenses is to help them get to work.
At one point, the councilor stated that this effort was to help illegal immigrants who are "behaving legally", which, if it were an honest statement, would mean that it would benefit very few illegal aliens since most are engaged in all sorts of lawlessness. And the illegal immigrants who were the subject of the debate are driving without licenses;, driving without insurance, driving unregistered vehicles, and going to jobs that they're barred from holding -- jobs they oftentimes acquire through identity theft, fraud, perjury, and so forth. A new CIS report dispels the myth of the so-called "otherwise law-abiding" illegal alien and details many of the laws the average illegal alien is violating. It's unclear what the councilor means by illegal aliens "behaving legally".
Originally the D.C. council proposed granting driver's licenses to illegal aliens that are identical to the licenses granted to legal residents. The council eventually conceded that they had to obey federal law and issue licenses in accordance with REAL ID, a law that came out of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Among other things, the law standardizes driver's licenses and requires states that issue licenses to illegal aliens to put a demarcation on the ID noting that the ID is not to be used for federal purposes, like boarding an airplane or entering a federal building. At the council meeting there was a lot of discussion about trying to minimize the goal of the REAL ID requirements; for example, there was talk of putting the demarcation in the smallest font possible. This would have the effect of making it more likely that a TSA agent or a security guard at a federal building would miss the fact that the ID was not for federal purposes, meaning that the ID holder may be able to slip past security. Public safety is clearly not the goal of those pushing the new D.C. law.
Bottom line: If the D.C. City Council was honestly concerned about illegal aliens driving recklessly on our streets, it would demand that the federal government do its job and return illegal aliens home. The District could strengthen relations with federal authorities and take steps that discourage illegal immigration while welcoming legal immigration. Unfortunately for those who support the rule of law, the D.C. City Council is doing the exact opposite.