Debra J. Saunders
On Nov. 16, 2010, an unlicensed driver named Roberto Galo took a left turn at Harrison and 16th streets and hit motorcyclist Drew Rosenberg. After Galo backed over Rosenberg's body, the law-school student died. A jury convicted Galo for manslaughter and driving without a license. After serving 43 days in jail, he was released on home detention.

Don Rosenberg of Westlake Village -- in Los Angeles County -- blames San Francisco politics for his son's death. He also fears that the like-minded Obama administration will shield unlicensed drivers to the detriment of public safety -- and Washington isn't giving him reason to believe otherwise.

This sanctuary city has been so eager to protect illegal immigrants who cannot obtain California drivers' licenses that in 2009, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that the city no longer would impound the cars of unlicensed drivers automatically. In 2008, the AAA Foundation for Public Safety reported that 29 percent of fatal car crashes in California involved a driver without a valid license. No worries, San Francisco sent a message to folks who haven't even passed a driver's test: You can drive here and get away with it.

Accidents happen, but Rosenberg doesn't see this crash as an accident -- Galo, after all, backed over Rosenberg's son.

You can't blame California's law that denies driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. As a legal immigrant given temporary protective status, Galo was eligible for a driver's license. But he didn't have one, and he drove anyway. That decision demonstrated a reckless disregard for the safety of others and disrespect for the law.

Repeated disrespect. Five months earlier, police stopped Galo for driving the wrong way on a one-way street and driving without a license. He paid a $220 fine. Then-Police Chief George Gascon -- now the district attorney -- supported the Newsom plan. He even told me at the time that it would help legal residents who couldn't afford to get a license or driver training. Does he still support it? No answer from his office.

The Public Defender's Office, which represented Galo, did not wish to discuss the case.

The next question is whether Galo, having been convicted of two misdemeanors, can remain in the United States legally. While immigration officials have not responded to my queries, aides to Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif, told me that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told them Galo was guilty of only one crime of moral turpitude -- which suggests that he can stay.

Thursday ICE released a statement that said Galo is here lawfully and it "is investigating the options related to his status in light of his criminal convictions."


Debra J. Saunders


 
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