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Ramiro can drive legally — whew

Alejandro Escalona

Alejandro Escalona

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Updated: January 9, 2013 7:55PM

Ramiro will soon get his driver’s license. The fear of getting deported after a minor traffic violation will go away.

The authorities now will know who is behind the wheel when Ramiro drives. They also will know that his driving skills have been tested and that he has auto insurance.

All drivers in Illinois will be better off for that.

“After 20 years of living in Illinois, I will be able to drive without fear,” Ramiro told me. “It is a great relief and one less worry.”

I’ve known Ramiro for nearly 15 years. I wrote about him a few weeks ago after the Illinois Senate passed a bill granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Ramiro is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. He and his family drive every day without licenses fearing they could be involved in an accident or stopped by police for a routine traffic violation that could result in one of them being deported.

On Tuesday, Ramiro was at work when the news broke that the Illinois House of Representatives voted, 65 to 46, in favor of legislation granting undocumented immigrants three-year state driver’s licenses. Gov. Pat Quinn intends to sign it into law. It was a happy day for Ramiro and a historic one for Illinois.

The bill allows an estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrants to receive a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License, requiring them to get tested, licensed and insured.

Pro-immigrant groups joined law enforcement, business, faith and community organizations to support the legislation. The bill was co-sponsored by Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Assistant Majority Leader Edward Acevedo and had bipartisan support from top leaders such as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

“Passing the highway safety legislation is proof that both parties can put the politics of fear and scapegoating aside and work on practical solutions that keep our roads and families safe,” said Lawrence Benito, CEO of the Illinois Coalition of Immigrants and Refugee Rights. “Illinois is an example of what can happen nationally.”

Illinois now joins Utah, New Mexico and Washington to grant a form of driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

“Drivers will not have to worry about getting into an accident with an immigrant who has no license or auto insurance,” Ramiro said.

I look forward to going with him and his wife to get their driver’s licenses. It will be a special day for him and his family.

And it will be a good day for Illinois.

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