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.