Illinois House of Representatives approved today measure to allow illegal immigrants to get temporary driver’s licenses. The 65-46 votes came after a lengthy debate in which backer and foes laid out their cases. Sending it to a supportive Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, cited numerous concerns about public safety. Opponents questioned why fingerprinting isn’t part of the legislation. Republican Rep. Randy Ramey of DuPage County said too many issues are left unanswered.
The Senate had approved the measure. Amendment, to the law SB957. Now we just need the signature of Gov. Pat Quinn to start being implemented.
“There are going to be far too many people who will get these cards,” Ramey said. “There’ll be fraud, abuse.”
With the approval of the Senate President John J. Cullerton said, “I congratulate and thank the legislators in the House of Representatives for passing SB 957 initiative, which now goes to the Governor’s desk for signature and become law”
“Communities, senators and representatives have promoted this measure in order to make the roads safer for Illinois, that end was reached today with strong bipartisan support.”
For his part, Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel issued the following statement:
“I commend the General Assembly to work together to ensure that all residents can get a driving license legally and regardless of their immigration status .. also applaud lawmakers for doing the right thing by acting on this critical legislation to make our city and state more welcoming to immigrants “
House Republican leader Tom Cross, however, supported the measure saying Illinois should be a place welcoming to immigrants “who want to work, who want to be part of our communities. We should work with them, not fight with them.”
The bill, backed by Quinn, who said he would sign it, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, would let an estimated 250,000 illegal immigrants get three-year renewable licenses.
To become eligible for a license, a person would have to live in Illinois for at least a year, a provision that would require applicants to provide a copy of a lease, utility bills and the like. Under current law, people without a Social Security number or proper documentation to be in the country cannot get a driver’s license and often have trouble getting car insurance.
The licenses could not be used for other identification purposes, such as for boarding a plane, buying a gun or voting.
Supporters said they expected the vote to be close in the House, where a committee advanced the bill Monday. The Senate already had approved the measure.
During Monday’s hearing, opponents questioned why there was no fingerprinting involved with the temporary licenses to ensure that those who apply are not lying about their identity.
“Without these basic public safety and Illinois security safeguards, this bill’s unsafe,” Hanover Park police Chief David Webb said.
“This is a two-prong issue: It’s not only about highway safety, but it’s also homeland security issues.”
Acevedo said fingerprinting would add “phenomenal” cost to the program.
Fred Tsao, policy director with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said fingerprinting might scare off eligible applicants.
The House transportation panel sent the proposal to the full House on a 6-3 vote. That led supporters to chant, “Si se puede,” which roughly translates to “Yes, we can.”
After the vote cast on Tuesday in the Illinois House of Representatives, the reactions applauding the bipartisan support for the project were immediate.
The initiative was sponsored by the Democratic Senate president, John Cullerton.
Representatives of 34 federations and hometown Mexicans living in Illinois sent a letter of support to the Legislative Assembly on the grounds that the law is an initiative “practice and common sense.”
Mexican immigrants support the temporary driving license already granted since 2005 to foreigners living legally in Illinois without a social security number.
Furthermore, proponents claim that the possibility of discrimination against undocumented is “minimal”.
According to proponents of the special license, last year there were a 42 percent of fatal crashes in Illinois were
unlicensed drivers were involved and secure.
So far, Washington and New Jersey are the only states that grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.