Illinois moves to give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants

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Illinois took a major step on Tuesday toward granting drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, which would make it the most populous U.S. state to allow undocumented migrants to legally drive.

The Democratic-controlled state Senate voted 41-14 to approve licenses for illegal immigrants to raucous cheers from Hispanics in the legislative gallery.

If the measure becomes law, Illinois would join only two other states, Washington and New Mexico, in granting such drivers licenses. Utah allows driving permits.

On Jan. 1, California will allow immigrants with federal work permits to receive licenses.

After taking a drubbing at the polls last month when Democratic President Barack Obama won re-election with 66 percent of Hispanics backing his bid, half of the Illinois Senate's Republicans who voted Tuesday supported the proposal.

At a press conference, Illinois state Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno and House Republican leader Tom Cross said Illinois could no longer ignore the presence of illegal immigrants, who are driving without licenses and insurance.

"They are here and they are with us, some of them not even of their own volition. But I guess we expect these people to ride their bicycles to work," Radogno said.

Senate President John J. Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, thanked Republicans for their support on the measure.

"Today's action acknowledges a simple reality: a quarter of a million undocumented drivers are driving to work, dropping their kids off at school and contributing to our economy," said Cullerton in a statement. "This legislation will ensure that this population has the opportunity to become trained, tested, licensed and insured drivers."

The measure is expected to be voted on in the Democratic-controlled House on Wednesday. If it passes the House, Democratic Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign the legislation.

Some Republicans in Washington also have begun to soften their opposition to immigration reform.

Republican senators from Texas and Arizona last month proposed what they called a compromise plan to offer visas to children brought to the United States by their illegal immigrant parents. The plan by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and Jon Kyl is intended as a Republican alternative to the Democrats' "Dream Act," which would grant citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.

Unlicensed, uninsured drivers are involved in almost 80,000 accidents in Illinois annually, resulting in $660 million in damage, according to the Illinois Highway Safety Coalition. Unlicensed immigrant drivers cost $64 million in damage claims.

The measure would extend to undocumented immigrants Illinois' existing temporary visitor driver's license, used by legal immigrants. The licenses are "visually distinct" from ordinary licenses, with a purple background and the words "not valid for identification" on the front, explained Lawrence Benito, chief executive of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

State Farm Insurance, a major insurer headquartered in Illinois, said in a statement that the legislation could present issues for insurance companies in assessing the driving record of illegal immigrants, but the company would implement the law.

"Just because you have a driver's license of any kind doesn't mean you'll get insurance," said spokeswoman Missy Dundov. "We have to consider all the information available."

The Illinois Safer Families Coalition, an organization that opposes giving drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants, ran an ad this week saying Illinois politicians cannot be trusted to administer such a program without corruption.

Coalition spokesman Bill Kelly cited Ricardo Guzman, a truck driver who illegally obtained a driver's license in Illinois and was involved in a 1994 crash that killed six people. It was later discovered that Guzman had bribed an Illinois state official to get the driver's license.

"I'm afraid that this bill, this poorly thought-through bill, is going to result in similar tragedies," Kelly said.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the number of Latinos in Illinois was more than 2 million, or nearly 16 percent of the population. Lawmakers estimated about 250,000 illegal immigrants drive in Illinois.

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B Kinney    
ill  |  December, 05, 2012 at 12:55 PM

with all of ill. problems,96 ,000,000 ,000 dollers in pension debt,9 ,000,000,000 in unpayed bills, you would think they would have better things to do. More about politics then anything else

indianapolis,indiana  |  December, 06, 2012 at 08:44 AM

we need this here and soon if their going to be driving and let's get them legal to this can help every one in the long run

C Hall    
IN  |  December, 06, 2012 at 04:50 PM

Illegal Latinos are getting social secutity numbers and ID's from the great state of Illinois at present. Next, illegal insurance ID's??? I hope your state legislators have one of their family involved in the accident that impacts their family.

New York  |  December, 06, 2012 at 09:37 PM

getting the driving license for illegals in Ill is the right thing to do right now. which is over due thanks to the state legislators. Now just do the math how much money state will make from illegal immigrants.

connecticut  |  January, 02, 2013 at 09:07 PM

that will be the best thing that could ever happend for the illegal immigrants , especially those ones who really work hard for this country, in all the different branches of work, people think that just by giving them driving licenses they are doing a huge harm to the nation. They are humans like any other. Mostly of them they are here to improve their living working, doing mostly of the jobs that real American citizens don't want to do any more. I will agre for them to receive driving licenses and legalize them as longest they Learn English and love and respect the USA,

Tired of it    
chicago  |  January, 10, 2013 at 03:31 PM

No, we need these illegals to follow the law... They are not ALLOWED to work.. They are not allowed to be in this country.. they broke the law by being here.. Why in the hell do we facilitate them to drive to a job that they took away from an american citizen, or help them get their kids into our schools to burden the system to the point that we have to cut out programs.. Now this gov is helping them break the law?

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