Saturday, November 10, 2007

Are driver's licenses incentives to illegal behavior?

Eight out of fifty states currently issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Does this fact encourage people in other countries to come here illegally?

There are an estimated more than 12 million illegal immigrants in this country and as far as I can tell they are all working or are the spouse or children of someone who is working. When you talk to them about why they came to this country and why they came to this particular state and city they invariably say that they came because they heard that they could find work here. I have never heard any of them say or indicate in any way that there was any other factor in their decision than their prospects of finding work. (If a baby is on the way they may also factor into the decision that it would probably be better for the child if she/he was born in America.)

So do the people who are arguing against driver’s license for illegal immigrants have any facts or hard evidence that issuing driver’s licenses is in fact an incentive to illegal behavior? My guess is that there are no such facts because no one decided to enter this country illegally based on any incentive other than the fact they could work here.

Notice the lack of facts in newspaper columnist Kathleen Parker’s column in this morning’s paper:

The illegal immigrant problem is huge, obviously, and there's no single solution. But there is one word that would get the ball rolling in the right direction and win a lot of voters' hearts: disincentivize. Stop making it so attractive to slip through, over and under the border.

As long as we offer jobs, medical treatment, drivers licenses and in-state tuition to those who come here illegally, why would any right-thinking, would-be immigrant take a number and wait his turn? Why not just throw in the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and free tequila while we're at it?
Certainly, no serious person thinks we can round up 12 million people and deport them. But it would be refreshing if we began to take seriously what it means to be a citizen and stop making it so attractive to be a lawbreaker.

read entire article

Why can’t we round up 12 million people and deport them? The few times I have ever heard anyone address this issue they talked about the logistical problems of moving that many people and how many buses and airplanes it would take. But that is not the main issue. Although it is the 800 lb. gorilla sitting in the living room that no one talks about the main reason we cannot send them home is that there are whole industries dependent on their labor. It would have devastating effects on our economy if they were to suddenly disappear. We cannot deport them all in exactly the same way that we cannot shut down all the coal-fired power plants and we cannot stop cutting down trees in the national forests.

So, they are here and are going to remain here. The only thing to decide is how to treat them.
When Kathleen Parker admits we cannot deport them all and then talks in the next breath about “what it means to be a citizen” she is talking about a two-tiered class system in which we exploit the labor of the non-documented while denying them the benefits citizens and legal residents enjoy. This would have all the standard advantages for us that the upper classes enjoy in any class-based society – and all the disadvantages also. Does a permanent under-class of exploited workers with fewer rights and benefits than the rest of us fit your picture of what America is about?

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