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Steve Lopez: Illegal immigration is a fact of life; deal with it

October 1, 2012 | 10:23 am

Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown's two big decisions Sunday on immigration bills illustrate the madness of trying to establish public policy when federal, state and local approaches are in conflict.

Brown decided that young illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria and qualify for a work permit program offered by President Obama can apply for a driver's license.

Steve LopezUnderstandably, some folks think this is insane, and you can hear the echo: What part of illegal don't you understand?

But for reasons that include a desire for cheap labor and cheap prices, illegal immigration is a fact of life. And many illegal immigrants drive without training, licenses or insurance, making it more dangerous for everyone on the road. So Brown isn't just recognizing the fact that many illegal immigrants were brought to the U.S. before they knew what the word "illegal" meant; he's also taking public safety into consideration.

But in his other decision Sunday, Brown seemed to cross to the other side of the immigration debate border. He turned back a bill that would have prohibited local law enforcement from working with the feds to detain suspected illegal immigrants, unless the suspected crimes were serious.

The bill was written because deportations have been up under Obama and families ripped apart by deportation, even though in the majority of cases, illegal immigrants are detained for minor offenses by local authorities.

The answer?

Federal immigration reform.

Offer a path to citizenship to those who apply, abide by the law, and pay fines for breaking the law.

Deport those who don't comply, secure the border, enforce the law.

Expand work permit programs to supply American businesses with temporary or permanent labor forces when necessary.

Invest a fraction of what the U.S. spends in the Middle East on economic development in Mexico.


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-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills during the congregation's High Holy Days Contemporary Issues Forum on Wednesday. Credit: Christina House / Los Angeles Times