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Illinois revisits driver's licenses for illegal immigrants

Illinois Democrats now hope for GOP help on a measure allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

November 24, 2012|By Monique Garcia
  • Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, left, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appear at a news conference to announce proposed legislation to grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, left, and Chicago Mayor Rahm… (Al Podgorski, Chicago Sun-Times )

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel say they will push the state Legislature again to try to pass a measure creating a special driver's license for illegal immigrants.

This time, the Democrats who control state government say they hope to get the help of Republicans who were stung by a lack of Latino support in the national election earlier this month. Quinn and Emanuel, along with Senate President John Cullerton, a fellow Democrat, expressed their support for such licenses Tuesday.

No legislation has been written yet, but Cullerton said he wanted to try to take action on the proposal as soon as next week, when lawmakers return to the Capitol in Springfield for a veto session. They are also back for a few days in December and again in January.

Few details have been made public, but the proposal would not be for illegal immigrants to obtain the same driver's license available to legal Illinois residents. Instead, discussions are centered on expanding a current program in the Illinois secretary of state's office that allows for temporary licenses for foreign visitors who are here legally.

Under that idea, illegal immigrants with proof of residency and a passport or other documentation would have to pass the vision, written and road tests, as well as obtain auto insurance.

They could then get a three-year license good for driving but not valid as a form of identification.

Public officials at the news conference Tuesday said that there were an estimated 250,000 illegal immigrants in Illinois, and that if half of them got driver's licenses and insurance, it would improve public safety and reduce costly uninsured motorist claims.

Republican Jim Edgar, who served multiple terms as governor and secretary of state, appeared at the news conference in support of the idea and said Republicans needed to do more to reach out to Latino voters.

"It is a piece of legislation that is morally fair, economically sound and politically smart," Edgar said.

Quinn said he would sign a measure if it passed. Washington and New Mexico have already passed similar laws, the governor's office noted.

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