On January 8, the Illinois House approved bill (SB 957) that would allow as many as 250,000 illegal aliens to receive an Illinois driver’s license. (ABC News, Jan. 8, 2013). In testimony before the House on January 7, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police urged the House to vote against SB 957 because it lacks “basic public safety and homeland security safeguards,” thus jeopardizing the safety of all Illinois citizens. (PR Newswire, Jan. 10, 2013). Despite these warnings, the bill easily passed the House with bipartisan support by a vote of 65-46. It had previously passed the Senate on December 4, 2012 by a vote of 41-14. (Huffington Post, Jan. 8, 2013).
SB 957 expands the Illinois temporary visitor driver’s license currently used by legal aliens to cover illegal aliens. In order to obtain a so-called “temporary” driver’s license under the bill, an alien need only have lived in Illinois for a year and may establish his or her identity using a consular ID or foreign passport. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 3, 2012).
Now that SB 957 has passed the General Assembly, the bill must be sent to the Governor within 30 days. From that date, Governor Quinn (D) will have 60 days to sign or veto the bill. In a statement issued following the passage of SB 957, the Governor declared his intention to sign the bill. (Governor Quinn Press Release, Jan. 8, 2013). Governor Quinn rationalized that the bill is good for Illinois because Illinois residents will save money on insurance premiums as illegal aliens will now have to maintain liability insurance as other licensed drivers. (Id.).
Opponents argue, however, granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens in no way guarantees that they will purchase insurance. (See FAIR Press Release, Dec. 7, 2012). “There is no evidence to suggest that people who are already inclined to disobey laws they find inconvenient and who, in many cases have few assets to protect, are going to purchase insurance just because they have licenses,” said FAIR President Dan Stein. (Id.). To back up his claim, Stein points to New Mexico who grants driver’s licenses to illegal aliens and is home to the nation’s second highest percentage of uninsured drivers despite having a mandatory liability insurance law. (Id.; see also Insurance Research Council, Apr. 21, 2011).
If Governor Quinn signs the bill, Illinois will be one of four states that provide driving privileges to illegal aliens. New Mexico and Washington State currently provide driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, while Utah provides a driver’s privilege card. Bills have been introduced recently in both California (AB 60) and Connecticut (SB 68) that would extend driving privileges to illegal aliens, while a bill has been introduced in Washington State (SB 5012) that would limit driver’s licenses to only those who can prove their lawful presence in the United States.