On Tuesday, the Illinois House voted 65-46 to allow undocumented immigrants to become licensed drivers in the state. All that’s left is for Governor Pat Quinn to sign the bill into law, which he has announced he will do. Ten months after passage, the new law will take effect, which means that the new licenses should be available some time in October–November of 2013.
Prior to this law, temporary visitor’s drivers licenses were available to foreigners who were present in Illinois legally but ineligible to obtain a social security number. To get one of these licenses, the foreigner would have to present documentation to the state that he was here with authorization from the federal government. What the new law does is allow for any foreigner living in Illinois to obtain a driver’s license, whether he has permission from the federal government to be here or not. The new law DOES NOT give legal immigrant status to anyone and the driver’s licenses are valid for driving only–they cannot be used as ID for anything else, whether that be voting, buying a weapon, purchasing alcohol, etc. The law also DOES NOT allow the holder to obtain a social security number so they are not legally eligible to work if they weren’t before. Vistor’s license holders are also subject to the same examination and insurance requirements as holder’s of normal driver’s licenses.
Although I still believe that the federal government needs to overhaul immigration laws, state laws like the new visitor’s diver’s licenses are a step in the right direction. It is no secret that there are millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States, and these reforms do less to encourage illegal immigration than they do to help bring our laws into alignment with reality. The truth is, whether licensed or not, many immigrants are going to drive vehicles on our roads. By giving them a way to drive legally, we can encourage them to become properly trained and insured which makes the roads safer for everyone.