Illegal immigrants make push for licenses in Illinois11/27/12
By Edith Brady-Lunny
BLOOMINGTON — An expansion of the state’s temporary driver’s license program that could allow illegal immigrants to drive legally drew mixed reviews Tuesday, a day when advocates lobbied in Springfield for the measure.
The changed has been heralded as a means to help an estimated 250,000 illegal immigrants in Illinois avoid citations for driving without a license and increase the number of insured drivers on the road. The proposal also has raised concerns from law enforcement that the state may be creating more problems than it solves.
“It all comes down to identification. This is going to complicate our mission to provide public safety,” said McLean County Sheriff Mike Emery, who opposes the legislation that would allow individuals who enter the U.S. without proper documentation to obtain the driver’s licenses currently available to temporary workers and others who meet immigration requirements.
Christina Deutsch, a supporter of the proposal, said immigrants are filling a need in the community. “If they are here they are working and we need them,” she said, calling driving a necessity for parents and workers.
Sonny Garcia, an organizer with Latinos United for Change, estimated that as many as 3,000 people could apply for the licenses in McLean County.
Emery agrees with supporters that it makes sense to offer driving privileges to young immigrants who are safeguarded from deportation under a federal immigration program. But Illinois may be overstepping its bounds by offering licenses to those who have not qualified because they cannot obtain a Social Security number based on their immigration status, said the sheriff.
“The federal government should realize that states are now struggling with immigration issues. It should be a wake up call that we need reasonable reform,” said Emery.
Someone who does not have a Social Security number may instead provide a federal tax identification number, according to the proposed legislation for licenses that may be used for driving, not identification purposes.
Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner acknowledged that licenses could help immigrants and police verify identities during traffic stops, but he worries the measure may cloud the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to determine who’s in the country legally.
“I know it’s a burdensome not to have a license but you don’t have to drive — that’s still a choice,” said Bleichner.
Bloomington Police Chief Randy McKinley said he supports the licenses for people he says are driving without the state’s permission.
“This could allow us to identify these folks and they’re driving anyway so let’s teach them how to drive and help them get insurance, something they can’t do without a driver’s license,” said McKinley.
Laurie Bergner with the McLean County League of Women Voters, called the proposal “a win-win because it will mean fewer uninsured drivers, and its good for undocumented workers who feel they have to drive to get to work.”
State Rep. Dan Brady said he has not reached a decision on the proposal but has heard from people on both sides. Lawmakers must weigh “if we are better off to have people at risk on the streets without insurance and a license or if we need to take the bull by the horns and do something as we wait for reform.”
Illinois would be the largest state to approve licenses for illegal immigrants, joining Washington and New Mexico. Utah allows driving permits.This article was originally published in forum thread: Illinois moves to grant licenses to illegal immigrants started by HAPPY2BME View original post