House OKs immigrant driving plan
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
Published Thursday, March 29, 2007
Without a vote to spare, the Illinois House on Wednesday passed legislation to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's certificates.
"This bill is not about helping undocumented citizens legitimize themselves, this is a bill about law enforcement and road safety," Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, the sponsor of House Bill 1100, said after the 60-56 vote. To pass, the legislation needed at least 60 votes.
The bill would allow illegal and legal immigrants to obtain driver's certificates, which would be distinct from driver's licenses. They could be used only for driving and purchasing insurance - not as a form of identification to buy a gun or board an airplane, Acevedo said.
Numerous law enforcement groups, such as the Illinois Police Chiefs Association and the state Sheriff's Association, supported the bill.
Limey Nargelenas of the Police Chiefs Association said it will allow officers to identify drivers during traffic stops or after accidents. Others have said the certificates also will reduce the number of illegal drivers who flee after accidents.
To obtain a certificate, an applicant would have to provide a valid passport and a federal tax identification number. He or she also would have to pass written and driving tests and be fingerprinted and photographed. The applicant would have to show proof of insurance within 30 days after receiving the certificate.
The legislation goes to the Senate. To become law, it must pass there and be signed by the governor.
The law would expire in five years, when lawmakers could vote again to reinstate it or reject it.
Group seeks licenses for illegal immigrants
By Danica Coto, The Charlotte Observer
RALEIGH - Latino advocates say they'll start lobbying N.C. legislators for driver's licenses, in-state tuition and wage enforcement for those who are undocumented, likely heating up the illegal immigration debate. It's the first time advocacy groups across the state have created one agenda, which was released Tuesday by El Pueblo, a Raleigh-based nonprofit.
The agency's top priority is to push for a special driver's license for illegal immigrants. Several states already use such an alternative.
After North Carolina started requiring a valid Social Security number or a valid visa to obtain a driver's license, many illegal immigrants chose to drive without one because they still have to work and take their children to school, said Zulayka Santiago, El Pueblo's executive director.
"When you have drivers on the roads not fully informed of our traffic laws, that puts all our communities in danger," she said.
El Pueblo also wants an increase in funding for the Wage and Hour Division of the N.C. Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration so it can respond to complaints about immigrants not getting paid.
Many workers in Charlotte say they're waiting to receive anywhere from $300 to $2,000 for temporary jobs, said Raquel Lynch, programs director at the Latin American Coalition.
Ron Woodard, director of the immigration reform group N.C. Listen, questions such proposals. If you're in the country illegally, you're not supposed to have a job anyway, he said.
"We're treating possible illegals with kid gloves," he said.
El Pueblo's legislative priorities include:
• Lobby for creation of a special driver's license for illegal immigrants.
• Create a program to certify educated immigrants, using their foreign job credentials, so they can work in their field.
• Ensure all N.C. students have access to a higher education, including receiving in-state tuition.
• Enforce safe migrant farmworker conditions to prevent such things as pesticide poisonings.
House OKs 'certificates' for illegal immigrant drivers
By CHRISTOPHER WILLS
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. | The Illinois House voted Wednesday to give illegal immigrants a way to drive legally on the state's roads, a move supporters say will be controversial but should improve highway safety.
Illinois police organizations support the measure. But Secretary of State Jesse White, who oversees licensing, is staying neutral, and many lawmakers remain skeptical about accommodating people in the country illegally.
Tennessee suspended a similar program after just 18 months because of fraud and forgery there.
The Illinois legislation would offer driving "certificates" to people who lack the valid Social Security number needed to obtain a regular license. The certificates would allow them to drive and buy auto insurance, but they couldn't be used as official identification.
The measure passed 60-56 and now goes to the Senate.
David Garcia is praying it becomes law.
He came to the United States illegally 20 years ago, at 19. Eventually he learned to drive and, using a fake Social Security number to get a driver's license, got a job as a trucker making $18 or $19 an hour.
"I loved it. I liked to be on the road," the Chicago resident said.
But his deception was discovered and he lost his job two years ago, Garcia said. Since then he has worked in a warehouse at half his former pay, and now he's out of work altogether.
"We need to drive. We have to drive to get to our jobs," Garcia said.
Supporters estimate some 250,000 immigrants, illegal or not, already are driving in Illinois without proper training and insurance. If they get into traffic accidents, many of those people will flee and leave the other driver stuck with any repair costs or hospital bills.
The certificate program would reduce that problem, which drives up insurance costs for legal drivers, supporters said.
The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois Sheriffs Association backed the measure, saying it would make traffic stops safer for officers. Right now, officers who stop an immigrant don't know anything about that person. Under the certificate program, they would be able to check the driver's record for any history of violence.
Opponents, however, say their constituents are baffled at the idea of setting up immigration laws and then altering government programs to assist people who break those laws.
"Let's just knock down the borders. Let's give everybody a certificate saying, 'Thanks for being here. You're a great American,"' said Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Greenville.
Sen. Bill Ketron sponsored the Tennessee certificate law and now is sponsoring legislation to eliminate it. He said people use forged documents to obtain the certificates and came in from other states and then went home to exchange the certificates for full-fledged licenses.
"It's been a disaster," the Murfreesboro Republican said.
Supporters say the Illinois measure contains safeguards to prevent similar problems.
To get the certificates, people would have to provide a photo ID, such as a passport from their native country, and submit fingerprints. They also would have to prove they've obtained insurance within a month or the certificate would be canceled. The certificates would cost $60, compared to $10 for a driver's license.
On the Net: www.ilga.gov
IDEA: Legislation approved by the Illinois House would create certificates that would let illegal immigrants drive and buy auto insurance.
PROS: Supporters say it would reduce hit-and-runs by immigrants driving without a license and would cut insurance costs for legal drivers. Police groups say it would improve safety.
CONS: Opponents object to granting benefits to people in the country illegally. Tennessee suspended a similar program because of fraud there.