It happened so fast that I literally did not know what had hit me. I was driving my mom to a doctor’s appointment. The morning commute traffic on Capitol Expressway in San Jose was heavy, but moving smoothly. Then a car ahead of me on the left moved suddenly into my lane and banged into my left fender. The impact pushed my car into the fast-moving traffic in the right lane. Tires squealed as cars swerved to avoid hitting me on the right. For a few unnerving seconds I was completely disoriented before regaining control of my steering and moving back into my lane. Meanwhile, the offending car changed two more lanes to the right, quickly turned right into Story Road, and disappeared.
That’s when I realized that I was a victim of a hit-and-run. I got out of the car to inspect the damage; there was an ugly dent on the front fender. I was angry and frustrated. How dare he drive off like that!
When my anger subsided, I figured that the other car was probably uninsured and the driver might even be unlicensed. There are an estimated 8 million to 10 million undocumented workers in the United States not eligible for drivers’ licenses. But they still have to get to work and take their children to school.
Recently, the Senate Republicans filibustered a measure that could legalize about 500,000 immigrant farmworkers and their families. In California, our governor has repeatedly vetoed bills granting drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants, citing security concerns. Never mind that undocumented workers have never posed any serious security threat. But Arnold is an astute politician who knows that a majority of Californians is still opposed to drivers’ licenses for undocumented workers.
We don’t mind that they pick the fruit and vegetables in California farms that we then buy at low prices at our supermarkets. We often don’t even know that they build our houses. We look the other way when they tend our yards or clean our homes and offices. And yet we don’t seem to care how they get to work or how their children get to school.
The truth is that many undocumented immigrants do drive to work. If they are not licensed and insured, it’s not because they don’t want to be, but because our laws don’t allow it.
Meanwhile, we take advantage of their labor, but refuse to validate their presence, or guarantee the basic rights that are the due of every worker. For me, the dent on the fender of my car is a daily reminder that the system is broken.