Friday - Apr 19, 2019

The city should extend its sanctuary law to the cars of the undocumented

­by Marvin J. Ramírez

From The Editor ­by Marvin J. RamírezFrom The Editor ­by Marvin J. Ramírez

For nine consecutive years, Sen. Gil Cedillo D-Los Angeles, has introduced legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to drive legally.

And on the same day in January law enforcement officials were meeting in Sacramento to discuss, among other issues, federal and state court rulings restricting authority of law enforcement officers to seize vehicles, as described in a Contra Costa Times article.

Although decisions by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco and the California Court of Appeal did not specifically deal with illegal immigration, in many communities the majority of cars impounded belong to unlicensed drivers in the country illegally, cites the article.

The issue highlighted the fact that most impounded cars belong to undocumented immigrants in many communities, prompting law enforcement agencies to reevaluate their impounding policies. San Francisco is no different.

According to the news report, ‘the California Police Chiefs Association has told its members it is illegal to impound vehicles of people whose only violation is driving without a license when the vehicle does not create a traffic hazard.’ But in the city, the San Francisco Police Chief continues allowing its officers to take the cars of undocumented immigrants.

And after consulting with county attorneys, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department became one of the first jurisdictions in the state to follow the legal advice. I don’t know where San Francisco has been when these other communities are taking the lead to protect immigrants without green card.

“This isn’t an immigration or racial issue,” Sheriff Bill Cogbill said in the Times’ news report. “But the majority of people who get their cars towed (in Sonoma County) are illegal immigrants because they can’t get a driver’s license.” – Huhh, the city by the Bay is getting lots of dollars, taking advantage of that handicap.

I question this: If San Francisco is challenging federal law by enacting ordinances that protect immigrants from federal raids (ICE) from deportation, why can’t the same city ordinance extend its sanctuary protection to their private property?

One thing the City can do, is to temporarily suspend any enforcement of state law that mandates the impounding of the vehicle for driving without a license after presenting a Consular I.D. or Matrícula Consular for identification purposes, and to require them to pass a driving test at an accredited driving/traffic schools, after paying a fee. Then the City would provide them with a driving permit, valid until the U.S. Congress passes a comprehensive immigration bill.

The City will receive a fee, like the one they collect from street vendors to work independently, even though they lack a work permit in the U.S. The fee will partially pay for this program, created for undocumented immigrants. Then we can  say that San Francisco is truly a Sanctuary City. (The Contra Costa Times contributed to this article.)