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Mayor Wants to Do Away With 30-Day Impound of Unlicensed Drivers — Including Undocumented Immigrants

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Drivers caught driving without a license can expect to have their cars impounded for a month at a time in Los Angeles. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants to change that and allow drivers — many of them undocumented immigrants — to get their cars back much quicker.

Villaraigosa told La Opinion about his proposed policy: "I want this to be one of the many things that I have done to extend the notion that the United States is a great place and that we should honor our history by welcoming people and bring [the undocumented] out of the shadows," he told the newspaper (according to a translation by the Los Angeles Times).

California law allows local agencies to impound a car for 30 days if an unlicensed driver is driving, according to the Los Angeles Times. In many cases, those unlicensed drivers are not legal citizens and those impounding fees can take a toll costing a few hundred dollars plus storage fees. Last week he National Lawyers Guild, the Southern California Immigration Coalition and their supporters released a report accusing the police department of racial profiling and targeting immigrant drivers.

Villaraigosa has proposed new guidelines to be rolled out in January that would limit the ability of police to impound cars. Some unlicensed drivers could get their impounded cars back within 24 hours. The new guidelines are just a draft subject to community review, but the Los Angeles Police Protective League is taking a hard line against the policy.

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"The Mayor's directive against putting 30-day vehicle holds on first-offense unlicensed drivers puts politics above public safety," the union group said in a statement. "This new policy will result in innocent people being injured and killed."