Published November 14, 2012
Activists, administrators of Chicago hospitals and chiefs of the Illinois police asked the state legislature Tuesday to pass a law authorizing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.
The subject was discussed several times in the assembly over the past 14 years, but the last bill died in committee in 2007 despite having the support of Democrats and Republicans in both chambers.
What is needed are "real solutions" for a problem that involves some 250,000 undocumented immigrants in the state who are estimated to drive without either a license or car insurance, Dennis Ryan, vice president of Holy Cross Hospital, told a press conference on Tuesday.
Undocumented immigrants who drive without a license in Illinois are involved in around 80,000 accidents a year at a cost of $660 million, according to a Highway Safety Coalition report.
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, whose suburban Chicago jurisdiction has a large Latino immigrant population, said that a third of the inmates in jail here are undocumented immigrants arrested for driving without a license.
These arrests are "a waste of time and money," the Republican lawman said.
Other figures released by the Highway Safety Coalition indicate that in Cook County, which includes Chicago, some 47,840 people were fined in 2011 for driving without a license.
The coalition proposed that the state government issue the undocumented with the same temporary driver's license it has given since 2005 to foreigners living legally in Illinois but who have no Social Security number.
This category includes foreign students, the spouses and children of guest workers, visitors on extended stays and others who are not authorized to work.
Lawrence Benito, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said that a bill is currently being prepared that already has bipartisan support in both chambers of the assembly and could come up for a vote very soon.
After the recent elections where the power of the Hispanic vote in Illinois and the United States became evident, "the Republicans are more open to reasonable, commonsense solutions for protecting people," he said. EFE