We're hard-pressed to understand objections to Public Safety Commissioner Charlie Weaver's efforts to tighten up regulations relating to obtaining a Minnesota driver's license.
The logic behind Weaver's crackdown is the quaint notion that driver's licenses should be restricted to those people who legitimately qualify for them. Driver's licenses are probably the most frequently used piece of identification in the United States. Making sure they're legitimate helps not only law enforcement, but shop owners or businesses that need to check their customers' identity.
The U.S. does a lousy job of tracking people who are in this country from other nations. Many are here for legitimate reasons such as business or education but it's clear in the current political climate that some are here with the intent to do us harm. At a bare minimum we need government to have a handle on who is here and when their visa expires.
Critics of the new requirements, which went into effect July 8 but are being challenged in court, say they unfairly single out immigrants who are in the U.S. for temporary stays. The new rules print the words "status check" on their licenses as a reminder for police to check the person's legal status and also notes when their visa expires. The new rules also asks first-time license applicants to produce a birth certificate or a valid passport. Driver's licenses from other states are no longer accepted as sole proof of identity.
There's nothing totalitarian or anti-immigrant about a government trying to make sure that foreigners who are in the U.S. are here legally. If they're here illegally arrangements should be made for them to return home and we shouldn't be thinking about granting them driving privileges.
Weaver's right when he says that obtaining a driver's license is a privilege not a right. It's hardly a Draconian measure to make sure driver's licenses are authentic and in the right hands.
It's particularly puzzling that some law enforcement officials object to the new regulations, claiming that it's not the job of police to help the Immigration Service.
Michael Jordan, a spokesman for St. Paul Police Chief Bill Finney and a former state public safety commissioner, said police officers aren't in the practice of turning people in to the Immigration Service and don't want to be.
In other words his attitude appears to be "It's not my job." Those were just the sort of bureaucratic walls that government has been trying to break down in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. We need immigration, law enforcement, aviation and other government agencies to talk to each other and work together if we're ever going to improve security within our borders.
In the name of both common sense and security, the Minnesota Appeals Court should back Weaver's new rules.
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