When Hillary Rodham Clinton fumbled a recent debate question about
Why, then, are we granting them driver's licenses?
Thus far, eight states allow illegal immigrants to receive licenses or permits (and 10 states offer in-state tuition) -- all in the spirit of making
We don't want to encourage immigrants to come here illegally.
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.
We should remove the incentives like birthright citizenship, jobs, medical treatment, driver's licenses and in-state tuition for those who come here illegally, why would any right-thinking, would-be immigrant take a number and wait his or her turn? Why not just throw in the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and free tequila while we're at it?
We must also create disincentives for border violations by assuring that those who are apprehended are expeditiously repatriated with the admonition that if they return and are apprehended again they will be jailed for not less than two years. All deportations must be treated as involuntary so that the jail time penalty is automatic. The social security number/name mismatch and multiple SSN use notifications would be another significant set of disincentives, especially if the perpetrators of ssn fraud were to be quickly deported at their own expense. Birth and death registries, tracking of visa overstays, and the reform of the 14th amendment would provide added disincentives.
Arguments favoring services and privileges for illegal immigrants always point to the broader benefits to society. Healthy immigrants mean a healthier
The latter seems unconvincing given that illegal immigrants, by definition, tend not to think legally. In any case, by the same logic, we might also say that amnesty is good for the country because then everyone would be legal. Rather than fix something, we simply accommodate circumstances. As in: Kids are having sex anyway, so we'll just give them condoms.
Advocates for licensing also argue that illegal immigrants can't get jobs without a driver's license. Do I hear bingo? Isn't that the point?
On the one hand, we argue that employers should be penalized for hiring illegal immigrants; on the other, we insist that the immigrants need driver's licenses because employers demand them. I'm beginning to see how
The Monday morning quarterback is, of course, a brilliant seer and the stands are filled with hindsight prophets this week. Here's one more shoulda for the pile-on. When NBC's Tim Russert asked why she thought New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's proposal to give illegal immigrants driver's licenses made sense,
"It makes sense for states to seek solutions given the federal government's failure to reform immigration, but I'm not 100 percent satisfied with the licensing plan. Unfortunately, Tim, I'll need more than 30 seconds to outline my concerns."
Or something to that effect. Instead,
Surely, we can love our neighbors and be a pro-immigrant nation without granting de facto citizenship to illegal immigrants through a menu of rights and privileges. As is, all that's missing is the oath -- and any meaning attached to it.
Beyond principle, there are practical reasons for denying licenses to illegal immigrants. As some reformers have pointed out, the driver's license is more than a permit to drive. It's a nationally recognized ID that implies citizenship, and is the most coveted "breeder document" of terrorists because it allows them access to all the other things they need to blend in -- jobs, housing, bank accounts -- as well as access to commercial airplanes and rental cars.
Many states still don't verify applicants' identities. In May 2001, when Tennessee dropped its requirement that applicants supply a Social Security number, tens of thousands of illegal immigrants applied for licenses, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
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.
That would make sense.
The above is excerpted, paraphrased and modified from an OpEd by
Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist based in