Bill would let undocumented immigrants get driver's licenses, insurance

November 20, 2012 (CHICAGO)

"It's really a highway safety measure in my mind and obviously has some other benefits," Cullerton (D) said.

One of the other benefits for Cullerton and the dozens of politicians in the state is giving them the chance to let the voting public know they support law-abiding undocumented immigrants who want to get driver's licenses and auto insurance.

"So this is really a consumer measure, it's a safety measure -- but also it's a measure of making sure we include people," Gov. Pat Quinn said.

There are an estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrant drivers who are not allowed to obtain licenses in Illinois. The Highway Safety Coalition says the fact they are uninsured costs about $64 million in damage claims.

Cullerton's bill will introduce would grant undocumented immigrants the same temporary driving privileges as foreign visitors. The licenses would be good for 3 years.

"My judgment has always been the same: this is a very good idea to protect lives and safety," Cullerton said.

Cullerton's Illinois Driver's License Bill comes two weeks after the 2012 general election in which experts say Latino voters made the difference in both national and local races.

"The Latino population here in the United States, there are more of us here that are citizens," State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, (D) Cicero, said. Former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar said his party should take notice.

"We need to try to show the Hispanic community we're their friends, we're not their enemy," Edgar said.

Previous attempts to pass similar bills have failed the General Assembly, in part because of republican opposition. However, immigration reform advocates sense a change in Illinois and nationally.

"The national narrative has been clear. The growth of the Latino and immigrant vote and I think elected officials both republican and democrats are paying attention to the issues that are driving people to the polls," Lawrence Benito, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee, said.

Washington and New Mexico already require illegal immigrants to get licenses.

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