State panel advances bill giving driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND ZACH BUCHHEIT Staff Reporters January 7, 2013 8:32PM
Updated: February 9, 2013 6:32AM
SPRINGFIELD — A bill granting undocumented immigrants temporary state driver’s licenses cleared its first Illinois House hurdle Monday despite homeland security questions.
But its broader prospects appeared iffy as the House adjourned Monday without taking a vote on the plan, and Tuesday stood as the last scheduled day of the lame-duck legislative session.
The House Transportation Vehicles & Safety Committee voted 6-3 to position the legislation for a full House vote, possibly Tuesday. The bill is supported by immigrant rights organizations.
“I think we’re right there. I believe that we’ve done all the homework. I think we’re going to have enough votes to get it through,” said Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago), the bill’s chief House sponsor.
Under the plan, which has already passed the Senate, as many as 250,000 undocumented immigrants who have lived in Illinois for one year would be eligible to receive a temporary visitors drivers license that would last for three years.
In exchange, those motorists would have to undergo rules-of-the-road training, take a vision test and show proof of auto insurance. The licenses couldn’t be used to purchase firearms, to board aircraft or register to vote nor could applicants be licensed to drive semi-trailer trucks or school buses.
But in committee Monday, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police protested the legislation, saying it lacked the proper homeland security safeguards of requiring applicants to undergo fingerprinting and to provide federal tax identification numbers.
“Without these basic public safety and homeland security safeguards, this bill is unsafe,” Hanover Park Police Chief David Webb told the committee.
Some key Republicans argued the same point.
“I think the integrity of the system is compromised if we don’t know who these folks are,” said Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst), who voted against the bill in committee.
An aide to Secretary of State Jesse White, who supports the legislation, said it is expected to cost $800,000 to set up within his office initially and then $250,000 a year to maintain thereafter.
Acevedo said adding the cost of fingerprinting to those figures would cause costs to skyrocket. Bearing that out, an official with the Illinois State Police, which supports the bill, said fingerprinting would cost about $25 per applicant.
“The way the state is as far as debt, I think the last thing we need to do is put an extra burden in terms of fingerprinting on the state of Illinois,” Acevedo said.