Should Illegal Immigrants Get Driver’s Licenses?
Matt Yglesias notes that the Democratic presidential aspirants are having a difficult time answering the seemingly straightforward question, “Should illegal immigrants get driver’s licenses?”
The problem with saying “yes” isn’t just that it’s unpopular, it’s that it’s unpopular because it sounds ridiculous.
Quite right. I understand the argument that we’ve got millions of illegal aliens in the country driving now sans license and that, since we’re unlikely to take the steps to end that situation, we might as well do what we can to have them at least break the law safely. Still, the idea that we’re going to have people who are violating our laws by simply being here line up in a government building to get issued a license that makes it even harder to enforce said laws is mind boggling.
In the early 1980s, when the AIDS scare was at its height and long before the treatment protocols that now make allow people to leave indefinitely with the disease, there was a spirited debate about teaching safe sex practices in schools, advertising condoms on television, and so forth. Bill Buckley made the interesting analogy that we would not teach our children that burglary was immoral but that, were they to decide to break into people’s homes despite that fact, they should be all means where gloves so as to minimize the chances of getting caught. Ultimately, though, Buckley’s side lost that argument because we rightly calculated that teenagers (and single adults, for that matter) were going to have sex regardless and that the public health consequences of that trumped the moral values concerns.
In this case, though, it’s unlikely the “safety first” argument will prevail. While teenagers could engage in unsafe sex without their parents’ permission, illegal aliens can’t get state-sanctioned drivers’ licenses without the active cooperation of the state. Having the state turning a blind eye to illegality in order to achieve a theoretical increase in public safety is a hard sell.