It seems like a lifetime ago when the U.S. Senate passed a bill to revise our immigration laws. The bill -- which was touted by some as the cure to our immigration problems -- went to the House of Representatives and died. The House stated they wanted to deal with the issue in pieces and not have another monster bill like Obamacare or Dodd-Frank, each of which have massive unintended consequences. Without federal action, California is stepping into the breach to resolve the issue for all Americans.
This column previously wrote that to make any progress on immigration, two truths would have to be accepted: First, there would have to be legitimate enforcement of our borders with a real fence along the southern border. Second, that we would have to deal with the estimated eleven million illegal immigrants within our borders, and kicking them out was not a solution. Well, the leaders of California have taken hold of the second part while ignoring the first. .
It starts with the fact that the California Legislature passed a bill that would allow an estimated 1.4 illegal immigrants to obtain California driver’s licenses. Though California was not the first state to pass this law, it certainly is the most significant. The law provides for a change in procedures that would eliminate the need to have a social security number. The law states that an applicant for a driver’s license will no longer have to provide proof that they are legally in the United States to obtain a license.
The first ramification of this is that the law specifically requires that the license be separately identified. But the law then states: “it is a violation of law to discriminate against an individual because he or she holds or presents a license issued under these provisions.” That means if you are an employer in the state of California you must treat an illegal immigrant with a driver’s license just like an American citizen.
The counterpoint to this is the federal government just started a new crackdown on employers in states like California with large immigrant populations. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is warning employers they can be hit with strong civil penalties for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. But, if the employer in California discriminates against illegal immigrants, they are subject to civil damages. Talk about can’t win for losing.