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Making streets deadlier so illegals can drive
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Valley towns have a lot of SOBs - scum on bicycles.

That is a coin phrased by some folks to describe the less-than-law-abiding who have been known to pedal around looking for things to swipe for yard sales to support their habits.

They tend to hit the streets under cloak of darkness.

The number of so-called SOBs shot up significantly about a decade ago. That's when police stepped up and started impounding cars of unlicensed drivers whether they were legal citizens or not.

What followed was a drop in the theft of larger items purloined from yards and - in some cases - full blown burglaries of outbuilding and even homes.

The theory of police was so simple it was brilliant. A good share of people who are unlicensed drivers aren't exactly towing the line. Take away their cars and their ability to commit crimes and haul off loot will be crimped. Besides, driving unlicensed is - news flash - against the law.

Not all municipalities pursued a zero tolerance approach to unlicensed drivers. One that doesn't, for example, is Stockton. From personal experience, they won't even impound the car of an unlicensed driver who is also an illegal if he rams your vehicle pushing you into another car and then has to be stopped from driving away by witnesses. Not only was the guy illegal and unlicensed but he had no insurance.

There is a bill now on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk that supporters say would impose a consistent statewide policy as some agencies confiscate unlicensed drivers' cars now and some don't.

The bill authored by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, would prohibit police from arresting drivers and immediately impounding their cars at drunken-driving checkpoints if their only offense is not having a driver's license.

Illegal immigrant backers say DUI checkpoints have been turned into traps for "otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants" who cannot obtain licenses. That is actually kind of rich since someone who is doing something illegal as being in this country without permission is certainly not "otherwise law-abiding."

It is wrong to dilute highway safety by imposing legislation that eliminates an effective way of reducing accidents. A higher percentage of accidents are caused by those who have had their licenses suspended. The American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety study in 2008 showed that unlicensed drivers are 4.9 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than licensed drivers. They are also 3.7 times more likely to drive intoxicated, and 4.4 times more likely to be hit-and-run drivers.

So in order to keep those "law-abiding" illegals from losing their cars at DUI checkpoints we simply give all law breakers a get-out-of-jail free card.

And, yes, there are samples of illegals driving without licenses that have killed people. One high profile example happened Aug. 19 in Santa Rosa when a 4-year-old boy was killed while crossing the street with his father. The illegal immigrant had been arrested twice before for driving without a license. Those arrests happened in jurisdictions that don't exercise their authority under current state law to impound vehicles.

And while the poster city for corrupt government - the city of Bell - may have profited from impounding kickbacks, few if any other cities do. It can actually cost money as local departments can tell you.

The price is worth the increased safety on the streets not to mention taking a bite out of burglary hauls.

What is really behind this bill is a bid by supporters of illegals who want to bypass immigration debate and give illegals full rights of an American citizen a piece at a time through various laws.

There is little doubt that illegals contribute to the economy. Just look up and down the San Joaquin Valley. That in itself doesn't justify hijacking laws to make illegals legal. We need a worker visa or visiting workers program that is effective as well as a path to citizens for illegals who have been here for awhile. If they don't take the path, then they must leave. While it is a complicated matter, it is really just that simple.

Now we are on the verge of making our roads less safe. That's not to say illegals without licenses are going to increase the carnage. That's probably far from it. What will happen is all those people who are unlicensed who are legal citizens will have the ability to operate what essentially are lethal weapons with impunity even if they don't have a license.

If they do manage to kill somebody, perhaps their vehicle might be impounded at that time.

Assembly Bill 353 is the equivalent of the governor signing a law that says police can't impound weapons from known felons because some of them might be "law-abiding" illegals.