Drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants sails through Illinois Senate

The Illinois Senate approved a controversial piece of legislation being debated in several states regarding granting licenses for thousands of undocumented workers living in Illinois. “The proposal, sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, would allow an estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrants in Illinois to be eligible for the special, three-year licenses to drive a vehicle.”  Cullerton believes that the safety of drivers on the roads in Illinois is in danger and public safety is an issue that needs to be addressed right away rather than waiting for Congress to come to terms with the thorny immigration issue.

By offering these licenses for immigrants who are not here legally, they would have the opportunities to be tested and trained in the rules of the road in Illinois thereby making it safer for all drivers. Furthermore, this license would be distinct in color from other licenses and must be renewed every three years. It cannot be used for specific identification purposes such as for boarding a plane, buying a gun or voting. Those looking to get this special license need to have lived in Illinois for at least a year and provide a copy of a lease, utility bill or other proof of residency.

Opponents of this piece of legislation, especially Sen. Chris Lauzen, say that granting driving privileges to people who are breaking the law by being in the country illegally is like putting the cart before the horse. It shows that Illinois is accepting that they have broken the law and there will be no consequences. Others claim this law does nothing to encourage driver safety on the roads and is a way for the government to acquire names of people who are in the U.S. illegally.

While the Senate quickly approved the bill with a large majority, the House will now be voting on it in early January. Most likely the bill will also pass in the House since a similar bill passed in the House a few years ago. Those in favor of granting licenses to undocumented immigrants say this is no perfect solution to the driving license issue Illinois is having, but it is a good-faith effort start to tackle the public policy problem of people driving on the roads with no authority. Depending on the effects of the law, other states may soon follow suit.

Given the open hostility displayed towards immigrants in the Missouri legislature, you can rest assured that a similar bill will not pass in Jefferson City.  In fact, Missouri has been on the other end of the spectrum, requiring that drivers license exams be taken in English only.

If you have questions regarding how to obtain valid immigration status or how to get a driver’s license as an immigrant in Missouri, please call us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.