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Immigration

Illegal-Immigrant Impound Policy Elevates Into Political War: Mayor, LAPD Chief vs. City Council, Police Union

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Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 1:45 PM

click to enlarge Bad news... for drunks and aliens. - SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA IMMIGRATION COALITION
  • Southern California Immigration Coalition
  • Bad news... for drunks and aliens.
It's common knowledge, by now, that DUI checkpoints around L.A. County double as illegal-immigrant crackdowns.

It works like this: Illegals aren't allowed to hold driver's licenses in California (a public-safety outrage for another day), so when they're asked to show their licenses at a DUI checkpoint, their cars will inevitably, under state law, be impounded and held for 30 days. Immigrants rights advocates argue that the policy works as an indirect tax on undocumented aliens.

So LAPD Chief Charlie Beck recently made the executive decision to do away with the impounds...

... at the obvious bidding of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who depends upon liberals and Latinos (and liberal Latinos) for political support.

Now, under Beck's checkpoint amnesty, license-less drivers will have a small window of time to call a licensed friend to come drive their car away before it's impounded.

From the get-go, this politicized padding of state law has infuriated L.A. police unions, whose prerogative is, of course, to make life easier for LAPD officers. (And muddling the state's unlicensed-driver law clearly does the opposite.)

The latest ally to come out against Team Villaraigosa/Beck is a bit more unexpected: The L.A. City Council. In today's LA Daily News, councilmembers claw the policy to shreds, arguing they should have been allowed to vote it:

"It's unbelievable that this is even being proposed," said Councilman Mitchell Englander, chairman of the City Council's Public Safety Committee, which will discuss the issue today. "It is policy and it's a bad one. People are getting killed."

... The council motion, introduced by Councilman Bernard Parks [Ed note: Parks formerly served as chief of police] and to be discussed in the Public Safety Committee today, calls for L.A. police to continue the 30-day hold until the council could review its impact.

click to enlarge The mayor and the chief: Too close for comfort? - GETTY IMAGES
  • Getty Images
  • The mayor and the chief: Too close for comfort?
Apparently councilmembers are more worried, in light of upcoming elections, about crucial campaign donations from union coffers than trying to keep up their strained facade of unity with the mayor's office.

They've now aligned themselves with two of L.A.'s biggest police unions -- the Los Angeles Police Protective League and the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association. The unions have come out swinging against immigrants rights groups for calling the impounds racist.

The LAPPL's latest angle was the death of a 60-year-old pedestrian in Panorama City. She had been hit by an unlicensed driver in an SUV:

"The tragic accident in Panorama City shows how the mayor's new policy can result in innocent people being injured and killed," Paul Weber, union president, said in a statement. "The Mayor's directive puts politics above public safety and should be rescinded."

Then there was this recent presser from the LAAPOA.

In a move that can only be called bizarre, the Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC) is holding a press conference to remind unlicensed drivers to "drive safe during this holiday season."

It is stunning that, the SCIC is urging unlicensed drivers to continue to break the law drive on Los Angeles roadways. Predictably, the SCIC also applauded the upcoming move pushed by Mayor Villaraigosa to change LAPD policy and disregard state law by ending the 30-day hold policy for vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers.

This war between L.A. Latinos and law enforcement -- and the politicians who pick either side -- is indicative of a larger conflict raging throughout the country. Where to draw the line between ensuring public safety and discrimination? Fingerprinting and privacy invasion?

And on a local level, the police chief's devotion to the mayor's stance on impounds is another portrait of the Krazy Glue bond they've formed these last few years. From the premature press conference to reveal Bryan Stow's attacker, to the choreographed LAPD raid of Occupy L.A., Beck seems to have turned into Villaraigosa's shiny hero puppet. Regardless of our stance on impounding the vehicles of the defenseless, their budding bromance is sketching us out to the extreme.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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