LAPD Chief Beck expands on comments saying illegal immigrants should get driver's licenses

Ruxandra Guidi/KPCC

Chief Beck at a press conference on Thursday.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck held a press conference Thursday to follow up after he stepped into the immigration fray Wednesday by telling the L.A. Times that undocumented immigrants in California should be allowed to have drivers’ licenses.

Before Beck spoke to the press, one of his deputies referred to the chief’s recent comments as “opening a can of worms.” But Beck stood by his words: that undocumented immigrant drivers should qualify for provisional licenses, as a way to keep other drivers and roads safe.

“Once you create this class of drivers that drive outside the law, there’s no reason for them to have insurance," Beck explained. "There’s no reason for them to have vehicles that are registered to the actual registered owner, there’s no reason for them to stop at the scene of minor accidents. All of these things can be addressed by having a two-tier licensing system.”

Beck said the state should follow the example of Utah or Washington, where there’s a two-tier system of licenses for those with legal status and those here illegally.

He says this system leads to fewer accidents and less resources wasted on traffic police.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials website says, "In at least some regions of the country, drivers who have never held proper license are often illegal aliens who fear detection if licensure is sought. In a California study, this driver group is reported to be even more overrepresented in crashes than drivers with [Suspended/Revoked] licenses by a factor of 4.9:1."

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca also reiterated his stance on the issue today. He says he would support licenses for undocumented immigrants, as long as they have lived in the U.S. for several years with a clean record.

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