Public Safety Takes a Back Seat to Illegal Alien Advocacy

By Jon Feere, January 25, 2012

In too many police stations, public safety takes a back seat to illegal alien advocacy. Americans are paying for it with their lives.

In the latest effort, pro-amnesty groups and the Mexican government are working tirelessly to stop police officers from impounding vehicles of unlicensed drivers. A member of one amnesty group complains that these standard public safety measures are "disproportionately effecting undocumented immigrants." In fact, a review of 2,064 vehicles impounded by one California police department between January 2003 and June 2005 found that 88 percent of the automobile impounds were driven by Latinos. Some police stations have decided to capitulate to the demands of the illegal alien advocates, even though it means keeping unlicensed drivers on the streets.

The latest proposal by the Los Angeles Police Department is aimed at making sure unlicensed drivers – read, illegal aliens – are able to avoid having their cars impounded in most instances. The existing policy requires the LAPD to impound a vehicle for 30 days if the driver does not have a license. The new proposal would allow unlicensed drivers to phone a friend with a license to come retrieve the vehicle at the scene of the stop. The licensed driver could then drive his unlicensed friend away from the scene, and presumably switch seats as soon as the LAPD officer has his back turned. The 30-day period in which the unlicensed driver presumably contemplates the repercussions of violating the law would be eliminated.

At a community forum last week, members of the L.A. Board of Police Commissioners were confronted by a room full of residents, the overwhelming majority opposed to the dangerous, pro-illegal immigration proposal. Video from the event is available here. One resident, Don Rosenberg, reminded the commissioners of his 25-year-old son who was killed in San Francisco by an unlicensed driver who had been previously stopped by police for driving without a license, yet released back out onto the streets. While the LAPD claims the proposal would be more "fair" to illegal aliens, Rosenberg responded: "And if you think it's 'fair' you come down the road and you meet my son in his cemetery and you tell him that this is fair."

As Mr. Rosenberg explained in a letter to the commissioners and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:

My son was driving home from law school. Galo, made a last second left hand turn, without his blinker, trying to beat the changing light. He collided with my son who was on his motorcycle. As they were both going slowly (and Galo was at a complete stop before he made his last second turn) my son probably survived the collision. The medical examiner said he had no head injuries. Instead of stopping Galo accelerated and his right front tire drove over my son's abdomen. When he couldn't continue forward because my son's body and his bike blocked his way he backed up driving over his body a second time. Continuing his attempt to flee he then went forward again driving over him a third time only stopping because a brave citizen had gotten out of his car and stood in front of Galo's car stopping his progress. Unfortunately, he stopped with his right tire on my son's abdomen. Five men had to lift the car off his body. My son's death was only one last year of the hundreds caused by unlicensed drivers in California every year.

After a reported 45 people spoke on the proposal, one official — city council member Mitch Englander — gave his opinion. If the policy change were to happen, he explained, "every one of us is less safe and our families are less safe. I cannot sit by quietly on this." According to media reports, his comments were met with "thunderous applause."

Despite public opposition, the movement to weaken public safety in order to benefit illegal aliens is spreading. Take, for example, California Assemblyman Michael Allen, a Democrat who represents Santa Rosa. One of his own constituents — 4-year-old Christopher "Buddy" Rowe — was allegedly killed by an unlicensed illegal alien while attempting to use a crosswalk with his family. According to reports, illegal immigrant Marcos Lopez Garcia fled the scene, though he was later arrested. According to court records, Garcia had been convicted in 2010 of driving without a license, and has two previous arrests for driving without a license, one of which occurred only five days before the hit and run. Despite his illegal immigrant status, Garcia was never handed over to federal authorities.

Although this horrific event happened in his district, it had no impact on the assemblyman. Dead Americans are simply collateral damage in the fight for open borders, it seems. The member introduced a bill designed to limit the effectiveness of DUI checkpoints by requiring their exact locations to be publically announced 48 hours in advance, among other things. Allen introduced the bill after reportedly receiving "thousands of letters explaining how sobriety checkpoints directly affected the life" of illegal aliens. The California Labor Federation, the ACLU, and a host of other open-border organizations supported the bill because it would reduce impounds of vehicles driven by illegal aliens. A number of cities in the San Francisco Bay Area have already sided with the illegal alien pressure groups and abandoned car impound policies, including San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley. It has become painfully clear that California law enforcement, directed by illegal-alien-coddling politicos, are not impounding cars to the extent that they could and are consequently endangering lives. "This is fantastic that it is happening," said Stella Agudelo of Santa Rosa's Resurrection Church.

Thankfully, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, his principal concerns being the 48 hour public announcement requirement and the fact that the bill would discourage, if not prevent, DUI checkpoints from being conducted during daytime hours. However, a similar law came into effect January 1 of this year.

Previously, police officers in California were allowed to arrest unlicensed drivers and impound their vehicles for a period of 30 days. This applied to drivers who had never been issued a license; those who simply forgot it at home faced less severe repercussions. Even though this had the effect of removing unlicensed drivers from the streets, it was too much for California Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (the same legislator who has repeatedly authored bills that would grant drivers licenses to illegal aliens). Under the new law, law enforcement is prohibited from impounding the vehicles of unlicensed drivers at DUI checkpoints if being unlicensed is the only apparent offense. Officers are now required to identify the registered owner of the vehicle, contact that person, and get the owner to pick up the vehicle or get the owner's permission to release the vehicle to a different licensed driver. It appears the unlicensed driver can simply run away, or return to the driver's seat a few blocks down the road.

Another methodology officials are using to keep unlicensed illegal-alien drivers on the streets involves embracing the matricula consular, an unverifiable, unreliable ID card issued by the government of Mexico. The cards are issued by the thousands at Mexican consulates and are needed only by illegal aliens, i.e. people who cannot get legitimate, U.S.-issued documents. Now, some open-border police departments will not arrest a stopped illegal alien, nor impound his vehicle, if the law-breaker happens to have one of these cards. The goal of the card's supporters is to shield illegal aliens from Secure Communities, the fingerprint database that flags illegal aliens if they're wanted by ICE for serious violations. In 2003, the FBI testified before Congress about the dangerousness of these cards, and the testimony is worth reading.

By embracing a lenient impound policy and the matricula, police departments have made life easier for illegal aliens and dangerous for the rest of us. It's unfortunate that people tasked with enforcing the law are so bent on making sure unlicensed illegal aliens are above the law.