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When the Feds Bash Immigrants
Special Contribution
By Domenico Maceri
The World Trade Center towers burn after being struck by two airplanes

The tragic events of 9/11 reinforced the feeling that we cannot control our borders and as results we continue to be vulnerable.

Republicans have been very vocal about the need to tighten immigration and cracking down on undocumented workers, but also on limiting legal immigration.

Recently the House of Representatives, controlled by the GOP, passed a bill called the REAL ID Act, which tries to deal with the question of immigration.

Unfortunately, it will make things worse. The bill would virtually ban states from issuing driver's licenses to undocumented workers and tighten the rules for immigrants seeking asylum as well as close a hole in the Mexico-California border.

Democrats described the bill as anti-immigrant. Denying undocumented workers the right to drive legally does not address the issue of their presence in the US. It just tries to make more difficult the lives of the estimated 8 to 10 million undocumented workers in the US.

A scene of US-Mexican border

Currently more than a dozen American states allow people to obtain driver's licenses even if they don't have a legal right to stay in the US. These states have recognized that it's better to know who is driving on our highways and ensure that everyone knows the rules of road instead of having to deal with the consequences of unlicensed drivers.

Giving licenses to undocumented workers who have been in the country and producing for us makes every citizen safer. It also recognizes their humanity. It says to them that they are good enough to do our undesirable work and that we'll make it easier for them to get to the jobs safely for their sake and ours.

The new House bill would require states to make sure people have a legal right to be in the US before issuing them driver's licenses. Those states refusing to abide by the new law would see their driver's licenses invalidated when its holders would board an airplane. In essence, by not following the federal guidelines, the value of the driver's license as an ID would be diminished.

Some Democratic and even Republican legislators said that if the bill becomes law it would lead to a national ID card. That may not be a bad thing because driver's licenses were never meant to be an ID card. A driver's license merely says that the holder can drive an automobile legally.

Mexican workers on a US farm

In the case of international travel, passports are used as ID, although for some countries near the US, a driver's license may also be acceptable.

By requiring states to check the legal status of driver's license applicants, the federal government would be passing the bucket. Instead of dealing seriously with the issue of immigration, the House tried to get the states to do its work.

The REAL ID Act passed the House largely along party lines with the GOP voting in its favor. It's a politically-motivated attack on undocumented workers.

It's an easy thing to do. The GOP knows that Americans want to bash illegal immigrants. It's already happened in several states. The most recent one is in Arizona where undocumented workers were denied state benefits. California voters passed a similar law several years ago but the courts later overturned it.

Denying undocumented workers the right to drive an automobile may be popular with voters but does not make undocumented workers disappear. It merely forces people to become more invisible and makes their lives even harder than they already are. It's a way of getting back at people who have "broken" the law, but does nothing to address the complex issue of immigration. It certainly does nothing to prevent companies from breaking the law and hiring undocumented workers.

Fixing the immigration problem in the US will require substantive presidential and congressional cooperation. Unfortunately, it's not happening.

The REAL ID Act, in fact, which Bush is supporting, is a step backwards. Hopefully, the US Senate will vote it down and push the agenda in a different direction.

Other Articles by Domenico Maceri
    Julián Castro's Monolingualism: a ...
    Biden's Immigration Plan: Between Trump and ...
    Legal and Illegal Immigration: A Winning ...
    World Cup: Beyond the Soccer Field
    John Kelly's Fails English and History

Domenico Maceri, Ph.D., UC Santa Barbara, teaches foreign languages at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, CA. His articles have appeared in many newspapers including Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Japan Times, and The Seoul Times. Some of his stories won awards from the National Association of Hispanic Publications.





  Other Articles by Domenico Maceri
    Immigration: Roberts' Emotion about DACA ...
    Julián Castro's Monolingualism: a ...
    Biden's Immigration Plan: Between Trump and ...
    Legal and Illegal Immigration: A Winning ...
    World Cup: Beyond the Soccer Field

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