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Hunter Announces Bill Punishing States That Give Driver’s Licenses To Undocumented Immigrants

U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter announced draft legislation Wednesday to punish states—including California—if they issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Aired 9/5/12 on KPBS News.

A California bill that would give drivers licenses to some undocumented immigrants awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature or veto. But Congressman Duncan Hunter isn’t very happy with that idea.

Congressman Duncan Hunter Jr. at Golden Hall on June 5th, 2012.
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Above: Congressman Duncan Hunter Jr. at Golden Hall on June 5th, 2012.

The California legislature recently passed a bill that would give licenses to immigrants who meet the requirements of President Barack Obama's new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

To be eligible for that federal program, immigrants must prove they arrived in the United States before they turned 16, are 30 or younger, have been living in the country at least five years and are in school or graduated or served in the military. They cannot have been convicted of certain crimes or otherwise pose a safety threat.

In California, that could be about 400,000 people.

Hunter’s legislation would take away federal funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, program to states like California that he says would be breaking the law.

California received more than $23 million this year from the COPS program to hire or retain 117 police officers.

Hunter was not available for an interview, but said in a pre-written statement that California "is a leader in sanctuary policies that stand in direct violation of the law.”

"The only way California will begin abiding by the law—whether on this or any other immigration-related issue—is if there are direct consequences for implementing and defending sanctuary policies,” he said.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | September 5, 2012 at 3:55 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

They're here, they're working, they're spending, they're educating themselves, they're contributing to America. This bill doesn't grant them citizenship, it doesn't let them vote. It merely ensures they will pass a driving test, making them safer drivers, more likely to be insured drivers, and will lower auto insurance premiums for the rest of us. What's the problem? It's a practical, progressive compromise that makes me very happy to see enacted.

Anyone who would criticize Obama's Deferred Action program as pure political gamesmanship ought to be leveling the same criticism against Mr. Hunter for this. His action is a waste of time and money. He should focus on reforming the VA healthcare system instead.

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Avatar for user 'steveb'

steveb | September 6, 2012 at 8:21 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

I thought that the Repubs are for states rights and didn't like "top down" solutions.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | September 6, 2012 at 9:32 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

Good one, Steve. Basically, they are hypocrites.

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Avatar for user 'astrofan'

astrofan | September 6, 2012 at 9:45 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

"Anyone who would criticize Obama's Deferred Action program as pure political gamesmanship ought to be leveling the same criticism against Mr. Hunter for this."

OK fine, they're both pandering for purely political reasons. However I find Obama's to be particularly egregious. He did nothing when he had both Houses, but pulled a fast one when he heard the chorus of illegal immigration activists getting too loud.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | September 6, 2012 at 12:47 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

State issued liscenses are also used as a form of identification, used to establish legitimacy. If we were to require a national ID and licenses were only used to permit vehicle operation (like a hunting license only permits hunting) then it would be less of an issue. The reason I understand for the objection is the bluring of the line in what forms of ID can be used to establish lawful residency.
There may be, and probably is, a political component as well. Politicans of all flavors seem to love being in the news.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | September 6, 2012 at 1:19 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

A national ID? You mean, like, a social security card? Gee, good idea benz. I wonder why no one has thought of that.

I don't care when he did it, I just care that he did. And I don't care for the congressman's attempts to block this particular aspect of the program.

Not all "illegal immigrants" (I prefer "undocumented immigrants" -- after all, no one calls any other type of lawbreaker an "illegal citizen") are the same, let's remember that. They may all have broken the law (literally speaking), but they're not all criminals (figuratively speaking). I'm glad Obama's program seems to recognize that fact and reward the ones who are rewarding our country with their hard work.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | September 6, 2012 at 2:03 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

A social security card does not have a picture and is not commonly used to verify identity. A driver’s license does and is. You seem to be missing the idea that it may further confound efforts to identify who is here legitimately and who isn't. That may not be important to you. OK. But there are people for whom that is important.
Vary seldom are "all" of 'anything' the same. I am not suggesting that they are. Blurring the lines that distinguish 'people who are definitely here legitimately' from anyone else does not help treat people as individuals though.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | September 6, 2012 at 2:09 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

Both Illegal Immigrant and Undocumented Immigrant are accurate descriptions, as are trespasser and criminal (literally speaking).
Your preference is fine, but to some will seem to lack a drive to rectify what they see as an economic problem.
My preference is also fine, but to some will seem lacking in compassion.
We all choose what is most important to us.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | September 6, 2012 at 3:01 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

What federal agency often finds itself confounded in its efforts to differentiate between a state drivers license and a social security card? What federal program is unable to determine the citizenship status of its prospective participants?

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Avatar for user 'E_pluribus_unum'

E_pluribus_unum | September 6, 2012 at 4:58 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

In 2002 The Little Hoover Commission produced a comprehensive bipartisan report that addressed the issue of undocumented immigrants in CA in a very pragmatic way. Excerpt: "Many community leaders – including law enforcement officials – no longer distinguish between documented and undocumented immigrants. Clearly many businesses are not supporting laws against employing undocumented workers. And increasingly, to achieve public policy goals, services are being provided to undocumented residents. It is not just that some immigrants are ignoring federal immigration law, but the law – because it is so flawed – is overlooked by political, civic, community and business leaders. California did not create this problem. But it must impose some rationality on the confusion of policies that make it difficult to integrate newcomers into California’s communities and has resulted in 2 million of its residents not having legal immigration status, even though they are contributing community members by so many other measures. The Commission recommends that policies affecting immigrants be linked to community priorities. The Commission begins with basic principles: All persons deserve respect and dignity. All residents are obligated to be responsible community members. And new Californians need the same opportunities as their native-born neighbors to become self-reliant."

For the full report please see:

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | September 7, 2012 at 6:58 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

No one that I am aware of is unable to determine between those documents. That was not the point. Federal agencies have huge (too large?) HR departments to vet applicants but that is not true for all parties seeking to potentially employ persons of ambiguous legal status. Nor is employment the only reason an agency might wish to validata that status.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | September 7, 2012 at 2:11 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

I'm for making the process for citizenship easier to obtain, but is this the answer. The easier we make it for people in our nation here illegally the more will be encouraged to continue to come here any way possible. I understand a child brought here by illegal means is not at fault for having spent most their lives here, and I don't want that person deported to a nation they know nothing about. The mental and emotional harm would be too terrible to bear. But if we provide amnesty and ammendments to our laws that make it easier for them to remain in the US, won't that spur more people to enter our nation illegally.

It's a complex issue across the board. We're all human and want to help, but only have so much room for everyone to live here.

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Avatar for user 'mccolgan55'

mccolgan55 | September 7, 2012 at 2:41 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

Your Social Security card is specified as a NON-ID card. In many states the driver's license is used as the government issued photo ID required for many, many things these days. However, if they are given to individuals who are not legal residents then the drivers license will not/cannot be used and EVERYONE will need to get a separate government issued photo ID that is not the driver's license. Check with Arizona.

That said, the license for these individuals can be made distinct from the current license to ensure it is used only for driving. Underage licenses are distinct, these can be too.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | September 8, 2012 at 12:59 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

Let's be honest, Mr. Hunter has about a much relevance as a fruit fly.

I seriously doubt anyone outside of San Diego County has even heard of him.

He got elected because his father procured a lucrative pay-for-play network of defense contracts locally securing repeated election in his district and then replaced himself with his carbon-copy son.

This bill, like the man himself, will go nowhere and garner little attention beyond San Diego.

Mr. Hunter is simply a copycat politician trying to ride a wave of race-baiting for tea party support in the fashion of his more popular heroes like Jan Brewer and "Sheriff"/human-rights criminal Joseph Arapaio.

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