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Monday, July 05, 2004

DallasNews.com | News for Dallas, Texas | California has a knack for dreaming up wacky ideas

DallasNews.com | News for Dallas, Texas | Opinion: Editorials

California has a knack for dreaming up wacky ideas. But even by those standards, one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest proposals – involving the combustible issue of whether illegal immigrants should have a driver's license – will make your head spin.

In California, as is true in any state with a sizable population of undocumented immigrants, the issue is divisive. There are those who say, yes, by all means, illegal immigrants should have licenses so that they are not pushed further into the shadows. Others disagree and insist that such a move would only legitimize illegal immigration.

Gov. Schwarzenegger helped repeal a state law that gave licenses to the undocumented but promised to support a revised measure that would address security concerns. Now he thinks he's got the issue licked.

He wants to add a distinguishing mark to any driver's license issued to an illegal immigrant. The governor says this will help law enforcement keep track of who's in the country legally and who isn't.

No doubt that's true. But it also would make a bad situation worse. Divisions will grow. Racial and ethnic profiling likely will increase. And illegal immigrants probably will continue to drive without permits rather than register for licenses, thereby defeating the purpose.

The governor should either leave things the way they are or come up with a fair and productive way to improve the situation.

Besides, we've seen this movie before. Some of the strongest opposition to the governor's plan has come from Los Angeles-area rabbis who warn that such tactics hark back to the persecution of Jews in Europe during World War II. Some Jewish leaders have said that they are reminded of how Jews living in Nazi-occupied countries were forced to wear Stars of David on their sleeves.

Singling out people in this way was unconscionable back then, and it's unconscionable now.

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