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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    PARADISE (San Diego)

    IL. Illegal aliens welcome chance to apply for new state temporary driver's licenses

    Immigrants welcome chance to apply for new state temporary driver's licenses

    Those in U.S. illegally see Illinois program as an important step

    By Juan Perez Jr., Chicago Tribune reporter
    December 3, 2013

    Galindo Barrios, 33, wheels the family Chevy back to his apartment near a busy rail line on the far edge of the Logan Square neighborhood.

    It's about 8 p.m., almost bedtime. He and his wife, Laura, watch their pajama-clad children squeal and scurry across the unit's wooden floors. The living room is largely decorated with a handful of sports trophies, family photos and toys.

    In a few hours, the Guatemalan national will step back into the morning's chill, back to the car and back to his metalworking job. He'll return to his wife and three U.S.-born children nine or 10 hours later.

    But Barrios' job comes with a persistent fear that his illegal entry into the U.S. about 15 years ago means he possesses no driver's license, potentially leaving him subject to arrest and deportation.

    Now Laura Barrios is working, so far without success, to get her husband an appointment to apply for a specialized Illinois driver's license, applications for which will be accepted starting Tuesday.

    Authorities have estimated that as many as 500,000 could apply for the program.

    "It's tough for those of us who don't have papers or a license," Galindo Barrios said. "You leave home every day to earn your daily bread, but sometimes you can't."

    Illinois legislators earlier this year cleared a path for Barrios to legally drive to work with the approval of a temporary visitor driver's license program. First available to legal visitors, the program will grant licenses to immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally, valid for driving in Illinois only.

    Ten other states have passed similar laws, but not without controversy. California is preparing to roll out its version of the program in coming months, but Illinois officials expect to set the tone for the rest of the country.

    "The experience in Illinois needs to work. It has to work," secretary of state spokesman Henry Haupt said. "We're the biggest state that's ever done this, and we're mindful of the fact that there are other states ... looking at us."

    For Barrios and thousands of others trying to apply for it, the license will not make him a citizen or allow him to work under the law. But he will have the freedom to drive without fear of the authorities. An arrest for a traffic-related offense such as not having a license can lead to deportations. Officials insist that temporary license applicants' information won't be shared with other law enforcement agencies.

    As Barrios puts it, something is better than nothing.

    The path of the Barrios family began years ago. Laura Barrios, 31, recalls being barely 6 years old when she headed north from her native Mexico. Galindo Barrios was a teenager when he came north.

    Both had family members who they said paid smugglers to dodge border patrols, ferry them into the country and put them on domestic flights to Illinois.

    Laura Barrios said she recently qualified for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a year-and-a-half-old initiative that avoids deportation and grants work status to qualified residents who arrived as children.

    She volunteers with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association's early childhood development program and has completed courses to become a certified nursing assistant.

    Galindo Barrios faces a more difficult path. He still owes $447 in fines to McLean County, for example, after pleading guilty to driving with an expired license last summer, records show, although he didn't have a license. That's about a week's salary, he said. Records showBarrios also has been cited for traffic violations in Cook County, including driving without a license and insurance, but he says the car is covered now.

    "Over there, to tell you the truth, people think it's better here because of the economy," Barrios said of his homeland. "And it is better here but there are a lot of jobs that you can't have because you don't have papers or a driver's license either.

    "This is a country of immigrants," he said. "And we're living in the shadows."

    Barrios is among thousands of people who hope the state's temporary license program will signify a step out of the dark.

    More than 5,000 people about 1,300 of them living in Chicago had successfully applied for license application appointments as of last week. Barrios and an untold number of others are still waiting to get in line as officials plan to open more than 30 total application sites during the next two months.

    Officials say the licenses, renewable every three years, can't be used for other identification purposes, such as boarding a plane, buying a gun or voting. The card can be issued only by the Illinois secretary of state. Its distinct markings don't represent a change in federal law, as it only legalizes driving within state borders.

    To be eligible, applicants must prove they've lived in Illinois for at least a year, a provision that requires them to provide a copy of a lease, utility bills or other proof of their residency. An applicant also must obtain insurance and pass vision and driving exams before the license is mailed.

    Prospective applicants often speak about how the program doesn't accomplish their goals for revised immigration laws, or are skeptical that if they apply, information about their legal status won't be used against them.

    Still, some say, the ability to drive without a constant eye on the rearview mirror is an important step.

    "Look at this through a human lens," said Yesenia Sanchez, head of the West Suburban Action Project, a local immigration advocacy group. "This is a vital issue for people. They've been waiting for this for decades."

    The document's importance isn't limited to driving privileges. In some communities, Sanchez said, the license can symbolize protection from deportation.

    "That itself even though it doesn't provide a path to legalization, or working or even getting on a plane even then, for people it's such a necessity. It's liberty from fear. And that is priceless."

    For many Mexican nationals, meeting a crucial requirement in the license application process means a visit to that country's consular office on Ashland Avenue.

    During a recent lunch hour, the busiest time of the consulate's business day, 29-year-old Humberto Huerta sat among hundreds of his countrymen. All were waiting to apply for the Mexican passport or consular identification card that Illinois will accept as one piece of proof of identity and residence.

    The consulate says it issued about 158,000 passports and ID cards this year through October, already an 8 percent increase from last year's total. Officials believe the spike is due to interest in the license program.

    Clad in jeans, boots and a heavy jacket, Huerta needed updated paperwork to apply for a temporary license.

    He said he arrived in the Chicago area after crossing the border when he was about 15 years old. It was a sort of family custom, Huerta said: finish secondary school, then head north. A wife and toddler await him back home.

    "The town I'm from is a town of immigrants," Huerta said. "My grandfather was an immigrant, my father was an immigrant, we were all immigrants. And I don't want that for my son."

    Huerta found work three jobs, he said requiring up to 90 weekly hours of busboy and bar-back duties in the suburbs. Now's the best age to bear that kind of load, he said, when six hours of sleep is enough for a night.

    "I'm married now. I have my wife and son, and my goal was to start a business and then return to live there. But, who knows, because of the violence there. No one can do anything because of that."

    When Huerta drives, he follows a mantra similar to one described by other residents living in the U.S. without legal permission who take the wheel: try to drive well, use familiar roads, watch out for the police. A roommate who knows Chicago streets drove Huerta and some of his family to the consulate.

    "One always drives carefully because if they get you once for not having a license, it's more likely they'll get you again. And if they keep getting you, your problems grow more complicated," Huerta said as he waited for a group of consular employees to assemble his documents.

    Huerta is quick to cite the perceived benefits of a driver's license, though. He's been in accidents before, he said, and was fortunate to be in vehicles covered by family members' insurance policies.

    "This way, I can have insurance under my name and drive freely without thinking that they'll come grab you and deport you. If I was arrested today, and they took me to jail for not having a license or identifying documents, I wouldn't be able to call to my three jobs and tell them I can't be there."

    Miles away, in Melrose Park, Estela Vara and her husband, Oscar Hernandez, follow the same routine almost every morning.

    A volunteer with the West Suburban Action Project, Vara is usually up by 5. She has English classes two days a week, community meetings on Mondays and work. Her husband helps get the kids ready for school before leaving the family's home around 7 a.m.

    Two children, deferred action recipients, head to college and high school. A third, a U.S. citizen, is in middle school.

    Hernandez then heads to his GED classes from 9 a.m. until noon, four days a week. Then it's off to the Schiller Park manufacturing company the couple have worked separate shifts at for years. Hernandez usually returns home by 10 or 11 p.m.

    "We practically only see each other at night," Vara said in Spanish.

    "And she's often sleeping by the time I get home," her husband replied.

    But the couple's workload is motivated by a desire to advance the family, he added.

    "And also to go with the system," Hernandez said. "Because we're trying to learn English and better ourselves."

    The couple are two of the 5,000 people able to schedule application appointments with the state, one in December, one in January.

    They often use main, well-traveled roads to get to work. In certain areas reputed for aggressive law enforcement, however, they'll take a roundabout way.

    "My husband is very fearful that he might be detained by the police, so we'll use the side roads, but we still drive," Vara said, adding the family has insurance on their vehicle. Vara has been cited for traffic violations, including driving without a license and insurance, in the past, records show.

    Traffic fines, bail and towing fees can devastate a slim monthly budget, the couple said. They also fear authorities' ability to detain residents and put them into deportation proceedings.

    "The license, for me, would be a small relief," Vara said. "It's not a triumph for us, but it's something small that we haven't had, and something that will help us.

    "We're not partyers. But we do have to go to the supermarket and work. ... And we could drive without fear."

    God willing, Hernandez said, they'll be able to remain in the state.

    "Because that's exactly why we came here, for a better future for ourselves and principally our children," he said.,full.story

    Don't reward the criminal actions of millions of illegal aliens by giving them citizenship.

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  2. #2
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    PARADISE (San Diego)
    Undocumented immigrants start testing for Illinois driver's licenses

    Mary WisniewskiReuters3:01 p.m. CST, December 3, 2013

    CHICAGO (Reuters) - Undocumented immigrants in Illinois began taking road tests on Tuesday to qualify for driver's licenses, starting a process expected to be closely watched by other U.S. states that are preparing to implement similar laws.

    Illinois is the largest U.S. state to implement legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to get licenses - following in the steps of New Mexico and Washington.

    Ten states in 2013 including Illinois enacted laws allowing unauthorized immigrants to receive driver's licenses or permits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Implementation dates vary - California, the largest state by population, won't begin issuing licenses until 2015.

    "They represent a growing trend toward inclusive state policies that recognize that immigrants are part of our community," said Melissa Keaney, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. "If someone's going to drive, we want them to be sure they know the rules off the road."

    Keaney said "all eyes will be on Illinois" to see how their program works. About 25 states considered the issue in their 2013 legislative sessions, the NCSL said.

    Supporters of the Illinois law said some 250,000 undocumented immigrants are already driving in the state, the fifth most populous. The new law requires them to take driver's tests and have liability insurance, thus making the roads safer, the supporters said.

    Illinois started taking appointments for testing November 12, and has scheduled 5,500, according to Dave Druker, a spokesman for the Illinois Secretary of State.

    Undocumented immigrants seeking a license in Illinois must show proof of insurance and, like other residents, must take a road test, a written test and a vision test. They also need to show they have lived in Illinois for a year by providing a rental agreement or other documents.

    If the documents check out and the immigrants pass the tests, the licenses will be mailed to them, Druker said.

    Druker said the program is starting slowly, with just four testing centers throughout the state and just six appointments in the Chicago office on Tuesday, to make sure everything goes smoothly.

    The special licenses cost $30 and will have a purple border, as opposed to the red border of ordinary licenses, Druker said. They will be good for three years not four, and will be used for driving only - they can't be used to buy guns or board an airplane, he said.

    The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police opposed the law because it did not require fingerprinting, which would identify whether someone applying for a license has committed any crimes, association executive director John Kennedy said.

    Kennedy said the group did favor requiring undocumented immigrants to take driving tests and get insurance.

    The Illinois Highway Safety Coalition said unlicensed uninsured drivers are involved in almost 80,000 accidents in the state each year, resulting in $660 million in damages. Unlicensed immigrant drivers account for $64 million in damage claims.

    Licenses for undocumented immigrants have faced criticism. New Mexico Republican Governor Susana Martinez has repeatedly sought to repeal that state's law, arguing it is dangerous and enables fraud.,6345635.story

    Don't reward the criminal actions of millions of illegal aliens by giving them citizenship.

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