The Illinois legislature has just passed a bill allowing undocumented immigrants in the state to apply for driver’s licenses. (Photo/Getty Images )

Illinois passes bill allowing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants

By a 65 to 46 vote, the Illinois House of Representatives passed SB 957, which will allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in the state.  It now goes to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who has already committed to signing the bill into law.  Latino immigrant groups immediately praised the legislature’s vote.

“The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) would first like to thank all of our immigrant families and immigrant rights activists who have been fighting to pass such legislation during the past 13 years,” said Lawrence Benito, ICIRR’s Chief Executive Officer. “Illinois has now shown that we have the courage to work in a bipartisan manner to pass sensible legislation to protect public safety, welcome immigrants, and protect our families,” said Benito.

SB 957 will allow more than a quarter of a million undocumented immigrants in Illinois to apply for a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL).  This requires an undocumented immigrant to pass a driver’s test, as well as obtain a license and insurance.  To be eligible, a person must show proof they have lived in Illinois for over a year.  The license would have to be renewed every three years.

Benito said it was not just Latino groups and legislators who advocated for the driver’s licenses; a coalition of business, labor, healthcare and religious groups had come together as the Highway Safety Coalition to argue for passage of the bill.

“With TVDLs, undocumented immigrants will be able to drive to work, school, worship, or shopping without fearing the risk of deportations, and their children will now have one less worry,” says the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights.

The bill had bipartisan support. While some state legislators and officials said fingerprinting should be part of the process, other legislators such as Chicago Democratic legislator Eddie Acevedo, one of the bill’s sponsors, said that would be very costly.

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