Saturday, November 22, 2008

DPS forays into immigration enforcement sacrifice public safety

I'm a little late to the game in mentioning it (despite prodding from a couple of readers), but the Department of Public Safety retracted its request to the Texas Attorney General (discussed on Grits here) for permission to launch a program of roadblocks without legislative approval to check drivers' licenses and liability insurance. Kudos to Rep. Ruth McLendon and Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa for holding the agency's feet to the fire and pressuring them to withdraw the request.

Meanwhile, even though the Texas Legislature declined in 2007 to authorize changes to comply with the federal REAL ID program, DPS is plowing ahead with REAL-ID spawned plans to issue special drivers licenses for immigrants (with a vertical instead of horizontal format). This is especially silly because, even though the new policy is clearly pandering to nativist, anti-immigration sentiments, under current law it actually only affects legal immigrants, since no one else can get a Texas drivers license.

So what's the point of the change? Pure media grandstanding. If any reader can name a single safety benefit to this new policy, please let me know in the comments. As far as I can tell, it's literally just for for show, but otherwise an utterly pointless exercise - I can't identify a single public safety benefit one could even argue might be accrued.

I've maintained for years that DPS' and Homeland Security have this one ass-backwards, they've misidentified the most significant public safety interests and instead are pandering to xenophobia. Drivers licenses are the wrong tool for enforcing immigration policy - it's not their purpose and using them that way perverts their other, more important functions. The feds, not DPS, are responsible for enforcing immigration laws, plus the agency's focus on restricting drivers licenses actually makes people less safe - particularly drivers, which is most of us, because if you can't get a drivers license you can't get liability insurance.

Somewhere around 25% of Texas drivers don't have insurance, and while not all of the uninsured (by a long shot) are illegal immigrants, Texas' refusal to issue licenses to all drivers regardless of immigration status ensures there's a baseline of perhaps a million uninsured drivers on the road at any given time. These drivers are uninsured by state policy, not because of a decision to flaunt the law.

In addition, refusing illegal immigrants ID makes them essentially invisible to the system, which creates public safety problems when they become witnesses to or victims of crime, not to mention during emergencies. Ostracization policies (both refusing ID and making legal immigrants publicly identifiable by their driver's license) makes immigrants less likely generally to cooperate with or trust the authorities - who can blame them?

Clearly, between pushing drivers license checkpoints and pursuing REAL ID changes without legislative authorization, somebody at DPS (apparently the chairman, Allan Polunsky, in particular) thinks the agency should take over federal immigration enforcement, perhaps becasue the Governor is unhappy with how the feds are handling things. But that's not DPS' job, and trying to push them in that direction will make the agency less effective at its core duties that more directly influence public safety.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Immigration enforcememnt is not the primary job of DPS, it should not be. However, DPS and any other law enforcement agency, should arrest illegals and turn them into proper authorities for deportation, etc. Otherwise the problem will never be solved; everyone will continue to blame the other for not supporting enforcement.

AW said...

You talk about the huge numbers of unlicensed and uninsured who will be on the roads ... It's worse that that. There are tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of legal temporary immigrants (known technically as nonimmigrants) in Texas. They are required to renew their legal status from time to time, and USCIS takes many months to process these extensions. During this time, they have only the receipt notice to prove they are legally present in the US. Yet DPS will not give them licenses. Their temporary working status requires them to work, yet without licenses they cannot legally drive to work.

In this short time since the rule has taken effect, immigration attorneys are reporting multiple incidents of their clients having problems in this respect.

It is too difficult for DPS employees to figure out who is and who isn't legally here, so they should be required to accept any reasonable evidence.

If businesses cannot employ their employees because the employees cannot get licenses, the businesses will go elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Why should it take USCIS many months to process extensions?

It seems the government is tripping over their own feet on the way to protecting our borders.

I agree that DPS should stay out of it. Texas cannot possibly make a meaningful difference in the immigration policy/problems of the U.S. Government.

It is still embarassing to me that the Federal Legislature cannot come up with a comprehensive immigration policy. It really is shameful!

Anonymous said...

What is shameful, is these illegals care less for the US or our policies and culture. They mostly, crap on all of us and have no alligence to us, but want all the medical and other benefits we can bestow on them. They are generally maggots and should be stamped out or sent to their homes in Mexico, which is becomimg an enemy of the US. We need to take care of our own and stop the 'of gee we must help the world - terrorists too' dumb policies. Obama will make us or break us!

Anonymous said...

20 million illegals is enough. I don't care what agency is used to stop the flow, just stop it. We don't need them competing for jobs against citizens in this economy.

A Jeffersonian said...

DPS Has gotten too big for it's britches. They apparently see themselves as being a legislative body as well as an enforcement body, and now they want to be Feds as well. I am glad the pressure stopped them from the roadblocks, (read: checkpoints comrades) I wish the pressure would stop the unlawful tax that they call a "driver improvement surcharge"!

Anonymous said...

Many of you complain and sit back as they take over! When you are forced to speak Spanish and give up American traditions, then you'll say "What happed?"

Anonymous said...

I served my country in France, Germany, China and Turkey. While there my family and I learned the local customs, culture and how to speak enough to get by. WHY can't we expect the same of these Mexicans who want to dry up our benefits and kill out traditions? If they refuse to, I say drive them out with force and keep them out; the thugs, gang bangers and anti American anybodys.

Anonymous said...

The checkpoints are NOT about playing Border Patrol! This was all about getting easy ducks(tickets). Why drive all over the state looking for DWI, no insurance speeders, etc, when they can all come right to you at a check point.
Trust me , DPS can't do their job effectively as it is, they don not want to play border patrolmen.

Anonymous said...

Why does a regular, good citizen feel aprehensive when they see a DPS vehicle? Makes one think, huh? Not hey...safety; no - intrusion, problems.

The Texas Red Ant said...

I say let them enforce immigration laws if they want to. They will soon figure out (as Irving police did) that immigration is not interested in deporting every illegal immigrant, so I think that DPS should set up there own deportation program. That way they will soon realize how costly the program really is and, hopefully, change their ways before they go bankrupt. They should also foot the bill for every auto accident involving an illegal immigrant that has no insurance because of DPS's screwed up policies.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Many of you complain and sit back as they take over! When you are forced to speak Spanish and give up American traditions, then you'll say "What happed?"

I wouldn't worry about learning spanish, you might want to brush up on your Chinese.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why it takes UCSIS months to process the simplest piece of paperwork, but it does - unless you fork out an extra $1,000+ to expedite the process. When I was thrown out of work and my legal status as an immigrant was in jeopardy, my immigration lawyer blithely told me that we could simply apply for me to have a visitor status visa. He told me it would take 6 months before they even looked at the application, and I could (legally) look for work in the meantime. He was right - it was actually 8 months before they processed the visitor application, and in the meantime I acquired a new public defender job. But even for us "legals" the USCIS can be incredibly frustrating - you pay through the nose every step of the way, they won't answer their own phones etc. While I would never become illegal, I can well understand why the system defeats people who are financially desperate, can't afford a lawyer and can't negotiate the system for themselves.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I notice for all the vitriol expressed by some of you ("maggots," etc.), nobody can identify any actual public safety benefit from the DPS ID change. That's typical.

12:43's situation reflects the type of people who'll be impacted by this - folks who played by the rules, etc., but now will be punished for it in the name of an ignorant nativism. And nobody can name a good reason why.

Thomas Hobbes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas Hobbes said...

Grits -

I believe the DPS rules affect new, renewal, and replacement licenses and identification. Do you know whether anyone has considered the impact on illegals who are required to register as sex offenders but will be unable to do so for lack of "proper" identification? It seems logical to assume that they will begin to fall off the radar as they find themselves unable to meet the requirements.

Leviathan

Charlie O said...

Kudos to you Grits. I have consistently said the "no drivers license for illegals" issue is a red herring. In all states, not just Texas. Not having a driver's license has EVER stopped anyone from driving who felt they needed to drive somewhere. I agree, it just creates a community of unlicensed, uninsured drivers. And to Anonymous 8:10, please list exactly what "American traditions" are you afraid of having to give up? What the hell is an "American tradition" in Texas, considering it was Mexico before it was Texas.

sliti said...

This checkpoints are not about illegal immigration. That is a red herring to get the libertarian-minded conservatives to get excited about "exportin' meskins" and forget about the affront to civil liberties of being stopped with no suspicion and being forced to prove your innocent by producing your papers. Bait and switch.

sliti said...

Also this will give DPS an opportunity to collect money on those "Driver Responsibility Fees" that have been assessed over the last few years but not collected because people don't pay.

rage said...

I don't believe this had a thing to do with catching illegals--the DPS just wouldn't make enough money off of it. It was just a scheme to write more tickets faster and make more money. they've already de-prioritized drug busts for the very reason that an arrest takes a trooper off the street for hours, when he could have been generating revenue through tickets instead.

The immigration boogey-man is a strawman raised by single-issue candidates, usually with Spanish surnames, trying to get their names in the paper.

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