Monday, January 07, 2013

Vote on driver's licenses
for undocumented residents
pushed to Tuesday

By Meredith Colias 

An estimated 250,000 undocumented drivers are one step closer to an opportunity to obtain a temporary driver’s license, but a floor vote on the bill was pushed to the last scheduled day of the current legislative session.

Under Senate Bill 957, which was approved by a House committee today, immigrants lacking Social Security numbers or documents to prove they are in the country legally would have to show a passport or consular identification documents and provide proof of residency for one year.  The proposal would require undocumented drivers to take a driving test with the state. Licenses would be revoked for drivers who do not subsequently obtain insurance. Secretary of State Jesse White’s office estimates the measure would cost $800,000 the first year and $250,000 to maintain each year after.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Edward Acevedo, told the committee that it would make roads safer by ensuring that undocumented drivers could be “trained, tested, licensed and insured.” Acevedo, a Chicago Democrat, said the licenses could not be used as a form of identification for other purposes such as buying firearms or alcohol or boarding an airplane. Applicants would be required to pay $30 for the temporary license, which would valid for three years and available for renewal.

Hanover Chief of Police David Webb said the proposal is an important safety step but is concerned that its security safeguards would not be strict enough. Webb and other law enforcement officials say applicants should be fingerprinted or required to provide a federal tax identification number before obtaining a license. “Without these basic public safety and homeland security safeguards, this bill is unsafe,” he said.

 License holder’s pictures would then be entered into a facial recognition database, but opponents were concerned that facial scan technology could be prone to error. “I think the integrity of the system is compromised if we don’t know who these folks are,” said Rep. Dennis Reboletti, an Elmhurst Republican.

Fred Tsao, policy director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said requiring fingerprinting to obtain a temporary driver's license might deter some undocumented drivers from applying for fear of being turned over to the federal immigration service for deportation. “It is a major concern to the community,” he said.

Acevedo said he plans to call the bill on the House floor a floor vote on Tuesday.

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