I don’t know what goes through the mind of someone like California Senate leader John Burton when he makes the kind of charge he made the other day, namely that the effort to repeal the state law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses was fueled by racism.
“I say the issue is racism,” Burton told reporters. “Do you think if these people were white and not brown skinned we would be talking about it? I don’t. … A lot of people have different positions on different issues that are not necessarily racist, (but) I think what’s driving this issue … (is) people with accents and different colored skin somehow get looked askance by those of us who look like you and me.”
Might some folks support the repeal because they are racists? Sure, it is possible. But, first, has Sen. Burton done any kind of assessment of the support for the repeal and found out that those who support it are indeed motivated by racism? No. He himself admits so much when he says, “I think what is driving this issue….” In other words, he has no evidence for what he claims to be true. Second, it would be irrelevant even if it were true.
Is it better to have some kind of documentation of the illegal aliens rather than none at all? As a prudential matter, it might be useful to have a record of them. On the other hand, as many, including the new California governor, have noted, giving illegal aliens drivers’ licenses enables them to do a great many things that legal aliens and citizens can do because they have undergone a supposedly valid measure of scrutiny. Such legal aliens and citizens are, supposedly, qualified to do what their drivers’ licenses enable them to do, things such as going through security checks at airports, obtaining financial services, gaining employment, etc. Conversely, illegal aliens will not have passed such certification, yet would still be able to do everything that legal ones can.
It is not clear whether legal aliens really need to go through all the procedures that gain them their better status or whether what they go through actually makes them less of a security risk in this country. But let us assume the system works at least to some extent.
So, if the system worked as it should work, illegal aliens would be criminals since they circumvented supposedly proper methods for being admitted to this country. Therefore, when they are enabled to function as such, that’s likely to be quite risky, not to mention unfair.
Whether the illegal aliens are from Europe, South or Central America or Africa, they should not be enabled to function as legal aliens. If the procedures whereby one becomes a legal alien are justified, then lifting them for illegal aliens is unjust — they are being provided with an undeserved, privileged status.
And assuming the procedures by which one becomes a legal alien include measures that guard against serious threats to our rights by those entering the country, circumventing these should be prevented. Thus, providing drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens will do just that, enable those who would ordinarily be identified as threats to our rights to escape detection.
So, the fact that opposing this enabling provision may be motivated by racism is really quite irrelevant. Many people who support freedom of speech or private property rights or any other freedom may do so not because they really believe in freedom but because they want to carry on in dubious ways — a good example used to be communists, who always played the free-speech card yet cared not about that principle. Any measure may gain support from both those who find it just and those who merely wish to use it to carry on in wrongheaded ways.
Yet that is not relevant. The fact that some who oppose drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens are racists does not suffice to refute the claim that providing illegal aliens with a drivers license is a bad idea. That has to be determined independently of motives, based on whether the policy in question is sound.
Tibor Machan advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper.