Message for Unlicensed Drivers Draws Controversy

But some people believe it is the wrong message

By Stephanie Elam and Yvonne Beltzer
|  Friday, Dec 23, 2011  |  Updated 2:47 AM PDT
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Immigrant rights groups call on undocumented drivers to take extra care during the holiday season, But the head of one police group says this is off-base

KNBC-TV

Immigrant rights groups call on undocumented drivers to take extra care during the holiday season, But the head of one police group says this is off-base

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An immigrant rights group held a news conference Thursday to encourage unlicensed drivers to take extra care this holiday season.

But their message fell on deaf  ears of people who say some unlicensed drivers are illegal drivers and should stay off the road.

One reason there are thousands of unlicensed drivers on the roads in Southern California is that undocumented residents cannot get drivers licenses in this state. For this reason, Southern California Immigration Coalition’s call for undocumented immigrants to drive extra carefully drew praise from some and raised hackles for others.

”Please do not give the police department and the sheriff’s department reasons to pull you over,” said Adrian Alvarez, who is president of the Association of Latin American Gardeners.

Coalition member Ron Gocha, who is also the vice president of the South Central Neighborhood Council echoed that advice.

“The great majority of them (unlicensed drivers) are people that are hard working immigrants and immigrants who are not allowed to have drivers licenses,” he said.

But Marshall McClain, the president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, said unlicensed drivers should stay off the road.

“I mean are we going to put up billboards that say, ‘welcome to Los Angeles.. . go ahead and break the law, but do it safely?’ That’s the wrong message to send, ”McClain said.

He added it was a matter of public safety.

“If you don’t know how to drive or you’re not licensed to drive, you shouldn’t be driving,” he said.

But members of the coalition saw it differently.

They said the problem would go away if undocumented immigrants could get their own drivers’ licenses.

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