Illinois starts driver's license exams for undocumented immigrants

December 3, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Pass. One little word which for Gabriel Gutierrez means he can finally drive without constantly looking over his shoulder.

Gutierrez is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. And Tuesday, for the first time in Illinois, the Secretary of State's office is issuing temporary driver's licenses for those who, like him, meet the requirements.

"Now, I'm probably going to feel more secure," Gutierrez said. "You have something that's going to help you with your family."

Only six Chicago-area people were granted interviews on this first day. A handful of others were processed in Springfield, as the secretary of state's office works out any potential kinks.

For those anxious to apply, the limited number of available interviews so far has been discouraging.

"With the cell phone I try 200 times," said Emanuel Castro.

"In mid-December we're opening up appointments for an additional 32 facilities at which point the number of appointments available will grow exponentially," said Lisa Grau, Illinois Secretary of States office. "So yes, right now it's difficult for people to get through because it's only four facilities, but we did that on purpose."

The temporary driver's licenses will look different from regular ones. They won't be valid as a form of id to board a plane, vote or buy a gun. It's estimated over a quarter of a million drivers on the roads of Illinois are undocumented and therefore without insurance.

"We're hoping to issue 160,000 in the first year, but I want to be very clear, that's not a cap. We're not saying only 160,0000, only one year. Not at all," Grau said.

For those who've been waiting to drive legally for years, just having the opportunity to apply is a game changer.

"I've been living here for ten years. I've been waiting a long time," said David Mora.

Tuesday's applicants will have to wait a little bit longer. Their driver's licenses will be mailed out about three weeks from the date of the interview.

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