ID’s for Illegals

Shelby County Sheriff and
Republican Mayoral Candidate
Mark Luttrell

Sometimes people say things without fully considering the long-term impact of their words. Actually, it happens more often than you think. So when Republican Shelby County Mayoral Candidate Mark Luttrell was asked in a recent candidate forum about issuing County ID cards to immigrants for the purpose of giving them easier access to law enforcement, and other critical services, he didn’t see an issue…until it was reported.

Let the backpedaling begin.

As the Commercial Appeal reports this morning, Luttrell says he didn’t realize that the ID cards would only apply to illegal immigrants. Of course, you have to wonder, who else would need an ID that only applies to the jurisdiction of Shelby Co.? Not someone here legally, that’s for sure.

I understand just how emotional the illegal immigrant issue is for some people, but aside from the emotional aspects, there is some value to the idea, but there are a lot of questions too.

Truth is, illegals are just like the rest of the population in some respects. They’re victims of crime, need to go to the Doctor, have to cash checks, and on and on and on. Its important that these people feel comfortable with government functions, particularly in the arena of reporting property and violent crimes, which may go unreported by those whose immigration status is in question for fear of deportation. By not reporting these crimes to law enforcement the perpetrators are held unaccountable and free to victimize more people.

Additionally, such an ID system would effectively shut down the “international Driver’s License” scam that is plaguing hispanic communities in Shelby County. On the other hand, one has to question whether Shelby County would be complicating the issue of legal status, or has the authority to issue an ID card even if it only applies to it’s jurisdiction.

Further complicating the issue is the bill signed into law this week, even though the Governor thought it was unnecessary that requires jailers to determine the immigration status of their charges, and report to federal authorities if that status cannot be determined. How can County governments, on the one hand issue an ID to illegals, and on the other hand, be charged with reporting their status to the feds? Under these circumstances, its easy to see why the very people this idea seeks to help would be suspicious of the process. Does anyone really think this would work?

Certainly, this issue is complicated, but I find it interesting that a candidate for County Mayor in the largest County in the state wouldn’t recognize that the very people who would need such an ID are the people his current office is charged with reporting to federal authorities under this new, and well publicized law. Further, the way Luttrell has walked back his position seems more politically motivated than based on any policy determination.

In the end, the idea of issuing ID to people who are in this country illegally is rife with emotional and legal issues. However, there is a simple truth that these folks are not some kind of monster, but people, who should be treated humanely. I’m neither for blanket exemptions nor mass deportation, there has to be some middle ground. Perhaps issuing some kind of government ID will stop some of the legal and illegal victimization that is occurring in the community, and give these individuals the confidence to begin the process of resolving their immigration status.

1 comment for “ID’s for Illegals

  1. S.
    July 1, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I tend to agree that people vilify illegal immigrants and place them in a realm undeserving of basic human rights. I also feel it was a tremendous overstep of both Luttrell and Ford to make blanket promises in this regard. Immigrants should not be used as a political tool.

    Immigration issues tend to fall within the purview of the federal government’s oversight- not the state or Shelby County. The topic of an ID card could see litigation in both federal and state courts depending on the invocation of contrary federal and state law. It will certainly be interesting if contested.

    Having worked with a non-profit on immigration issues, one of the greatest hindrances to achieving legal status is the federal process. It’s frankly 1. expensive, 2. long, 3. more complicated than the income tax code.

    My concern as a taxpayer is who’s going to pay for these cards. I don’t think it unreasonable to charge applicants for the cards, and I don’t think it unreasonable to try and stretch the resources we have in place to administer the cards. I will be against establishing a whole new system for their administration. Of course, as both men were conspicuously silent on the facts and figures behind this proposal, it will be anyone’s guess.

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