Illinois, Nevada lawmakers push to legalize driving for illegal immigrants

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 12/6/2012

Efforts underway in two states would nearly double the number of states that legalize driving for illegal immigrants.

Illinois law now requires people to show proof of citizenship to obtain driver’s licenses. The program allows for temporary licenses for foreign visitors in the country legally.

The Illinois Senate voted 41-14 on Tuesday, Dec. 4, to advance a bill to change licensing rules to allow illegal immigrants to obtain special driver’s licenses. SB957 now awaits further consideration in the House Transportation: Vehicles and Safety Committee.

Backed by some influential Illinois politicians the initiative to allow an estimated 250,000 illegal immigrant motorists in Illinois to get tested for driving privileges and buy insurance without facing deportation has received a late push at the statehouse.

Opponents say the driving cards would “reward” people for disobeying immigration rules.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said the state needs to act to improve safety on roadways. She referred to an estimated $64 million in damage claims attributed to illegal immigrant drivers each year.

“The fact of the matter is we have a problem in this country. The federal government has not addressed the issue of undocumented immigrants,” Radogno said at a press conference. “So we have to tackle this problem.”

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, shared a similar sentiment.

“In the state legislature we’re in charge of our highways and making them safe. This bill will save lives,” Cullerton said at a press event.

The three-year license would be distinct from a regular driver’s license and would not be valid for identification purposes other than driving or buying auto insurance. It would be identical to licenses made available for legal immigrants.

Only New Mexico and Washington provide special driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. In Utah, illegal immigrants can obtain privilege cards to drive. The documents cannot be used as identification.

A similar effort underway in the Nevada Legislature would provide driving privileges for illegal immigrants.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, has filed legislation for consideration early next year to allow affected drivers to drive legally.

Similar to Utah’s version of a driver’s privilege card for illegal immigrants, Denis’ effort would also authorize the drivers to obtain liability insurance.

The legislation can be considered during the session that opens Feb. 4.

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