Some of the main politicians in Illinois, including Gov. Pat Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton, on Tuesday publicly expressed their support for a bill to issue driver’s licenses to some 250,000 undocumented immigrants.
“This is a safety issue that impacts every driver in Illinois and we should join together to take swift action to save lives,” Quinn said during a press conference at Chicago’s Roosevelt High School.
Quinn called the bill that fellow Democrat Cullerton will present in the coming weeks “responsible legislation.”
In place of a traditional driver’s license, undocumented people would receive the temporary license that has been granted since 2005 to foreigners who are living legally in Illinois but who do not have a Social Security Number.
Quinn also emphasized the economic benefits the bill would bring the state.
“Making sure all motorists, regardless of their background, are licensed and insured will drive economic growth and ease the financial burden on all Illinois motorists,” he said.
Also participating in the public event on Tuesday were Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and several prominent Illinois Republicans, including former Gov. Jim Edgar, who described the proposal as “morally fair, economically sound and politically smart.”
According to information released by the Highway Safety Coalition, undocumented immigrants who drive without a license and insurance in Illinois are involved in about 80,000 accidents a year at a cost of $660 million.
In Washington and New Mexico, where similar laws have been approved, traffic accidents caused by undocumented immigrants have been reduced.
Lawrence Benito, the executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said that bipartisan support exists to push the initiative in the state legislature.
This is an “opportunity” the Republicans have to move closer to the Latino and immigrant community with a bill that “shows a lot of good faith,” he said.