Judicial Watch Blog
December 14, 2011
he city of Los Angeles is taking its sanctuary title more seriously than most by ordering police officers to stop enforcing a state public safety law because it creates an “unfair burden” for illegal immigrants.
A few weeks ago the mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, directed the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to stop impounding the vehicles of unlicensed drivers for 30 days as per state law. The measure is intended to keep potentially reckless drivers off the road and therefore protect the public. It applies to unlicensed drivers as well as those who have had their license revoked or suspended.
Under the law illegal immigrants make up the majority of the drivers who have their cars impounded because they can’t get licenses in California or most states. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told the local newspaper that this presents an “unfair burden” and “disproportionate blow” for illegal aliens, who he refers to as a “valuable asset to our community.”
So the chief has ordered his officers to give unlicensed drivers a chance to avoid having their vehicles impounded by calling someone with a license who would then be allowed to drive the car. The chief says it’s a “fairness issue” because there is a “vast difference between someone driving without a license because they cannot legally be issued one and someone driving after having their license revoked.”
The city’s police union is outraged and is charging the mayor with putting politics above public safety. “This new policy will result in innocent people being injured and killed,” the union said in a statement posted on its website. “It is a sad day for Los Angeles residents because the Mayor is directing the LAPD to purposely not enforce a state law designed to protect public safety.”
The union further points out that the new policy exposes officers and the city to potential legal liabilities stemming from any damage or injury caused by an unlicensed driver’s continued operation of a vehicle that should have been impounded under state law. It also “substantially reduces the disincentives against the unlicensed and unlawful operation of a vehicle.”
The LAPD has a decades-old policy (Special Order 40) that prohibits officers from initiating police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person. This prevents officers from inquiring about the immigration status of an individual and from contacting federal officials about an individual’s immigration status. In 2006 Judicial Watch filed a taxpayer lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of California asking the court to prohibit the LAPD from expending taxpayer funds to enforce and maintain Special Order 40, which violates both federal immigration laws and California law while placing American citizens at risk.