Updated after the jump with a thumbs-up from L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Activist Ron Kaye blasts the change.

The LAPD over the weekend changed its policy on impounding cars of unlicensed drivers, stating that a licensed registered owner or nearby companion could drive them off.

The change was made after critics accused the department of unfairly taking cars of illegal immigrants — who can't get a license in California — and setting up DUI checkpoints in neighborhoods where undocumenteds reside.

It hasn't been bad for city business. Over the weekend some pro-immigrant activists called for …

… the L.A. County Sheriff's Department to follow the LAPD's lead. Other departments, including San Francisco's, have made similar changes.

Chief Charlie Beck was scheduled to speak about the change at a press conference this morning.

DUI checkpoints nab plenty of un-drunk but unlicensed drivers, who aren't supposed to be behind the wheel. That has triggered tows and mandatory 30-day impounds that can cost more to bail out cars than they're sometimes worth.

Illegals often simply just end up without their rides. (The impound yards end up selling the cars after a certain period).

Of course, some anti-illegal-immigrant activists are pissed. No special breaks for law-breakers, they say.

Update: Political activist and blogger Ron Kaye blasted the move, arguing that the LAPD shouldn't be weighing in on the stupidity of U.S. immigration enforcement via department policy.

He asks this:

Are we really better off with a vast hidden class of identity-less people than having rational standards for who can come to this country and live with the same legal protections and responsibilities as everyone else?

Mayor Villaraigosa, however, was clearly proud of the change:

The LAPD's improved impound policy will preserve the safety of the community while also ensuring that the law is applied fairly to every Angeleno. Chief Beck is a stalwart advocate for constitutional policing, who has tirelessly searched for new methods to protect the welfare and the rights of every resident of our great city. I am proud of his leadership on this issue as well as his willingness to evaluate his own department's ability to pursue the highest degree of justice.

First posted at 9:42 a.m.

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