-By Warner Todd Huston
After a vote on January 8, Illinois is set to join only two other states, New Mexico and Washington, to allow illegal immigrants to apply for state drivers licenses. A third state, Utah, allows illegals to drive on temporary permits.
The 65-46 vote where 11 Republicans, some in leadership positions, joined Democrats to extend legal licenses came after a long, heated debate (SB 957).
Conservative activist William J. Kelly criticized the law.
“This kind of legislation has spurred a serious fraud problem in New Mexico and other states where it has been enacted,” Kelly wrote in the State Journal-Register. “Papers have been forged, auto repair shops have been regularly listed as places of residence, and more illegal driver’s licenses schemes have caused headaches for law enforcement as foreigners from other countries come to the state to fraudulently receive a U.S. driver’s license.”
Indeed, New Mexico’s Governor has been fighting to repeal her state’s licenses for illegals law.
Safety concerns were foremost in mind of detractors of this bill. One of the biggest concerns was that fingerprinting is not included in the law.
Supporters claimed that the bill would show Illinois to be a “welcoming” place for law-abiding illegal immigrants that just want to work and make a living.
“Our entire state would benefit from Senate Bill 957. If only half the 250,000 get [temporary licenses] and get insured, Illinois insurance policy holders would save $46 million per year,” said Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago) on January 7. “Police officers would be able to know who they’re stopping.”
But at least one Illinois police chief disagreed with Rep. Acevedo. During the debate on the bill Hanover Park Police Chief David Webb told the House Transportation Vehicles & Safety Committee that there just weren’t enough safety measures in the bill.
“Without these basic public safety and homeland security safeguards, this bill is unsafe,” Chief Webb said.
Despite Rep. Acevedo’s claim that more drivers will become insured with his law, the bill does not require proof of insurance before an illegal immigrant can get his license. Supporters say that such a requirement is unnecessary as the law already states that drivers have to be insured to drive in the Land of Lincoln. Further a provision in the law maintains that a police officer can confiscate the license if the illegal immigrant cannot produce proof of insurance on demand.
Detractors also point out that number of insured drivers did not materially increase in Washington or Arizona after those states passed their drivers licenses for illegals bills.
Some illegal immigrant activists said that the bill may not make much difference because lawbreaking illegals won’t likely trust subjecting themselves to the government to sign up for the new privileges.
“It’s asking immigrants to hand over all their information to the state and I just think there’s going to be a real reluctance there if the people are not legal citizens in the country,” said Cristobal Cavazos, Immigrant Solidarity DuPage.
Applicants must be able to show residency in the state for a year before being afforded the three-year license which will called a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said he will sign the bill.