Gov. Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton and Mayor Rahm Emanuel said today they will push the state legislature to once again try to pass a measure creating a special driver’s license for illegal immigrants.
No legislation has been written yet, but Cullerton said he wants to try to take action on the proposal as soon as next week, when lawmakers return to Springfield for a veto session. They are also back for a few days in December and again in January.
Few details have been made public, but the proposal will not be for undocumented immigrants to obtain the same drivers license available to legal Illinois residents. Instead, discussions are centered on expanding a current program in the Illinois Secretary of State office that allows for temporary licenses for foreign visitors who are here legally.
Under that idea, undocumented immigrants with proof of residency and a passport or other documentation would have to pass the vision, written and road tests, as well as obtain auto insurance. They could then get a three-year license that is good only for driving but is not valid as a form of identification.
Public officials at the news conference said there are an estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrants in Illinois and if half of them got drivers' licenses and insurance it would improve public safety and reduce costly uninsured motorist claims.
Republican Jim Edgar, who served multiple terms as governor and secretary of state, appeared at the news conference in support of the idea and said Republicans need to do more to reach out to Latino voters.
"It is a piece of legislation that is morally fair, economically sound and politically smart," Edgar said.
Quinn said he would sign a measure if it passes. Washington and New Mexico have already passed similar laws, the governor's office said.
The issue has been hotly debated in the General Assembly, most recently in 2007 when a similar measure passed the House but not the Senate.