Once again, my home state of Illinois is at the epicenter of the immigrant rights movement.
From Fox News Latino:
“Activists, administrators of Chicago hospitals and chiefs of the Illinois police asked the state legislature Tuesday to pass a law authorizing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
The subject was discussed several times in the assembly over the past 14 years, but the last bill died in committee in 2007 despite having the support of Democrats and Republicans in both chambers.
What is needed are ‘real solutions’ for a problem that involves some 250,000 undocumented immigrants in the state who are estimated to drive without either a license or car insurance, Dennis Ryan, vice president of Holy Cross Hospital, told a press conference on Tuesday.”
The Highway Safety Coalition, an organization calling for the licensing of undocumented drivers nationwide, reported that over 47,000 drivers in the Chicago area were fined in 2011 for driving without a license and, “nationwide, unlicensed motorists are five times likelier to be involved in a fatal crash than licensed drivers.”
The group has proposed offering undocumented immigrants the same type of licenses provided to legal foreign residents in Illinois, a population which includes foreign students and relatives of guest workers.
Mark Curran, the Republican sheriff of a neighboring county where Latinos make up a full 21 percent of the population, has been a prominent supporter of the undocumented and the push for driver’s licenses for all Illinois drivers.
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
“Curran said routine traffic stops involving immigrants have become an unnecessary drain on both police and judicial resources.
That’s because undocumented immigrants caught driving without a valid license have to be detained and then end up in the court system, Curran explained, noting that most of the individuals involved would be eager to get a license if only there was a procedure allowing them to do so.
‘They would love to not violate the law, but they need to feed their families, and they have to get to work,’ Curran said.
On top of that, allowing these drivers to be licensed would result in more people on the road who have been tested, Curran said, and once they have a license, more could obtain auto insurance.”
In full disclosure, my wife is a part of Illinois’s undocumented community, and we’re currently waiting for the USCIS to grant her permanent residency. She’s been fined for driving without a license a total of three times since I met her in August 2009, twice in the past few months alone — she was hit by a licensed motorist who blew through a stop sign back in July. She’s been in the country since her mother brought her from her home town of Juarez at the age of two. She’s now in her mid-20s and has a 8-year-old daughter whom she drives to school every morning.
I’ve been driving her to and from work since her last stop, because we just can’t afford for her to have any more run-ins with the law or pay another $200-plus fine.
The debate is a murky one, and I understand the opposition’s objections to such laws. But granting a driver’s license to someone who illegally crossed the border or overstayed their visa is different than granting a right to the road to someone who was brought here as a child and has received their education here.
In fact, that’s a pretty good idea: anyone who has a high school diploma from an American school should be allowed to sit for the driver’s test and receive a license. That way, we can make life a bit easier for people who are undocumented through no fault of their own, while not accommodating conscientious lawbreakers.
Illinois legislators will probably pass a law in the next month or so granting at least some kind of driver’s license to the undocumented.
And Springfield providing DREAMers the chance to be licensed drivers will give me one more reason to be a proud Illinoisan.