PRINCETON — Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation into law which will help ensure all Illinois motorists, even undocumented immigrants, are properly licensed to drive a vehicle. However, Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said he’s not convinced this is an entirely good law.
On Monday, Thompson said he will enforce the new law appropriately and professionally, but he has very mixed opinions about the law. By giving illegal aliens or immigrants the authority to get a driver’s license, it is overlooking the fact they are still here illegally. The law does not address the bigger issue of controlling the borders, the sheriff said.
In signing the legislation into law on Sunday in Chicago, Quinn said an estimated 250,000 immigrant motorists are on Illinois roads, and those unlicensed drivers present a serious, but preventable, safety risk to all Illinois drivers.
“Driving means taking responsibility for your safety and the safety of others on the road,” Quinn said. “Despite the stalemate on immigration reform in Washington D.C., Illinois is moving forward. This common sense law will help everybody, regardless of their background, learn the rules of the road, pass a driving test and get insurance. As a result, our roads will be safer, we will create more access to job opportunities, and our economic growth will be strengthened.”
The new law allows the Secretary of State office to issue temporary driver’s licenses to applicants who have resided in Illinois for more than a year but who are not eligible for a Social Security number. In order to receive a temporary license, the applicant must pass a driving safety test and carry auto insurance. The driver’s license cannot be used as official identification and can be revoked if a license-holder is found not carrying insurance.
Thompson said he understands the financial benefit to the state of making sure every driver has auto insurance.
According to the Illinois Highway Safety Coalition (IHSC), unlicensed, uninsured drivers are involved in nearly 80,000 accidents in Illinois each year, resulting in $660 million in damage. Unlicensed immigrant drivers cost $64 million in damage claims alone. If half of the estimated 250,000 unlicensed immigrants were properly licensed and insured, Illinois insurance policy holders would save an estimated $46 million a year in premiums. Nationwide, unlicensed motorists are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than licensed drivers, according to IHSC research.
As far as not being able to use the new temporary driver’s license as an official identification document, Thompson said he can foresee people trying to buy identifications through any means possible and as often as needed.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has estimated it will take about 10 months to finalize rules and train employees on needed paperwork and qualifications for the illegal immigrants before the new law can be implemented.
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