Illinois legalizes driving for illegal immigrants

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/9/2013

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said on Tuesday, Jan. 8, that he will sign into law a bill to 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.

On the final day of the 2012 regular session, House lawmakers voted 65-46 to send a bill to the governor to change licensing rules to allow illegal immigrants to obtain three-year renewable licenses. Senate lawmakers already approved it on a 41-14 vote.

“(The bill) will help ensure every Illinois motorist is properly licensed and empower more immigrants to become stronger contributors to our economy,” Quinn said in a press release.

SB957 got a late push by some influential Illinois politicians. Some leading Republicans at the statehouse advocated the change to allow an estimated 250,000 illegal immigrant motorists in Illinois to get tested for driving privileges and buy insurance without facing deportation.

Opponents said applicants should be fingerprinted. Others said the driving cards “reward” people for disobeying immigration rules.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, called for the state to action 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 recent press conference. “So, we have to tackle this problem.”

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.

Similar efforts are underway at the statehouses in California and Nevada to provide driving privileges for illegal immigrants.

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