Illinois driver’s licenses, not IDs, possible for illegal immigrants
CHICAGO — Illinois‘ push to give illegal immigrants driver’s licenses is being sold as a traffic safety measure, but anyone who looks at the Election Day results can see the obvious political benefit to this public policy change.
That is why almost all of Illinois’ Democratic leaders and a handful of Republican leaders appeared here Tuesday to back this proposal, which has yet to be written.
“This is going to benefit all of us,” said Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, who will drive the legislation in Springfield. “Our insurance premiums will go down … and we will have a record of people who are stopped for traffic violations.”
But Cullerton also admits that giving tens of thousands of illegal immigrants — many of whom are Hispanic — a license “has some other benefits.”
Lawrence Benito, CEO of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, agrees.
“We live in a political state. And we realize that others may be coming to this issue from a political view,” Benito told Illinois Watchdog on Tuesday.
Hispanic voters in Illinois are emerging as an influential voting bloc, having thrown their support behind Democrats on Election Day. Hispanics comprise about 16 percent of Illinois’ population, but made up nearly 10 percent of voters this year — up from just 1 percent 20 years ago.
“The national narrative around this election is that the Latino vote is unquestioned,” Benito added.
But Benito said the driver’s license plan is more about good public policy than good politics.
The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office issues a temporary visitor driver’s license, or TVDL, for noncitizens who have been granted temporary, legal entry into the United States, but are ineligible for a Social Security number.
That state license has a purple background, as opposed to the blue or red backgrounds for legal residents. And TVDL is clearly stamped with the words “Not Valid for Identification.”
Benito said if the immigrant licenses are similar to TVDLs, there should be few fears about voter fraud.
“The state already issues TVDLs and is clear that they cannot be used to enter a federal building, to buy a gun, or to vote,” Benito said.
Jim Edgar, a Republican who served as secretary of state and governor, said Tuesday that extending driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants is more than just promoting traffic safety and accountability.
“This is also an important first step, as we begin to deal with one of the biggest challenges we face. That is updating our immigration laws to make them realistic in the 21st century,” Edgar said.
Illinois lawmakers will discuss the proposal when they return to the statehouse next week. The Legislature could vote then, or wait until January when it would take fewer votes to pass the proposal. Gov. Pat Quinn, who was at Tuesday’s news conference, said he will support the measure if it arrives at his desk.
Washington state and New Mexico currently issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
Contact Benjamin Yount at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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