Impounds and Illegals

And Chief Beck wasn’t being hyperbolic when he referred to illegal immigrants being a “vast number of people” in Los Angeles. I once attended a meeting at which Beck was asked why he had spoken out against Arizona’s then-pending S.B. 1070. “I was asked to,” he said.  And he went on to say that if a similar law were to pass in California (as unlikely a contingency as can be imagined), LAPD officers “would be doing nothing else” but dealing with immigration issues. And why would this be so?  “Because,” he said,” there are 600,000 illegal immigrants living in Los Angeles.” That would be 15 percent of the city’s 4 million residents.

He didn’t cite his source for that figure but it doesn’t strike me as an exaggeration. Indeed the Census Bureau reports that in a single zip code near downtown Los Angeles, 70 percent of the 21,000 residents are foreign born. And these are the people, as we are constantly reminded, who are “living in the shadows.” But from within those shadows, they and their enablers are able to influence a policy decision by the chief of police in the second largest city in America. Living in the shadows? More like casting a very long one.

I’ll admit that on occasion I’ve stopped an unlicensed driver and let him go without impounding his car. I’m not about to turn a carload of children out on the street when their parent seems to be an otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrant. But there is a difference between a cop on the beat cutting someone a break and the city’s police chief coming out and saying that state law is too great an imposition on illegal immigrants, then directing his officers to ignore it.

According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (.pdf), 20 percent of fatal traffic accidents in the United States involve at least one unlicensed driver, and accidents involving unlicensed drivers are more than twice as likely to cause a fatality.  It is only a matter of time before some beneficiary of Chief Beck’s new policy kills someone with a car that could have been impounded.  I’ll be curious to hear his thoughts on “fairness” then.