Illinois took a major step on Tuesday toward granting drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, which would make it the most populous U.S. state to allow undocumented migrants to legally drive.
The Democratic-controlled state Senate voted 41-14 to approve licenses for illegal immigrants to raucous cheers from Hispanics in the legislative gallery. If the measure becomes law, Illinois would join only two other states, Washington and New Mexico, in granting such drivers licenses. Utah allows driving permits. On January 1, California will allow immigrants with federal work permits to receive licenses.
At a press conference, Illinois state Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno, and House Republican leader Tom Cross said Illinois could no longer ignore the presence of illegal immigrants, who are driving without licenses and insurance. The measure is expected to be voted on in the Democratic-controlled House on Wednesday. If it passes the House, Democratic Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign the legislation.
The measure would extend to undocumented immigrants Illinois’ existing temporary visitor driver’s license, used by legal immigrants. The licenses are “visually distinct” from ordinary licenses, with a purple background and the words “not valid for identification” on the front, explained Lawrence Benito, chief executive of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the number of Latinos in Illinois was more than 2 million, or nearly 16 percent of the population. Lawmakers estimated about 250,000 illegal immigrants drive in Illinois.