Drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants

November 9, 2012

Photo courtesy of LSNA.
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Only three states in the country allow undocumented immigrants to have driver’s licenses.  But the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights hopes Illinois will as well.  On Friday, one of their member organizations, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, held a parent forum on licenses for undocumented immigrants.  

The rally began with cheers and celebration. Many of the parents had helped register voters. Organizers discussed how after the Latino voter turnout for the election, it would be hard to ignore Latinos concerns.

But the mood turned more somber as mothers approached the stage to share their experiences about how the lack of a driver’s license had impacted their families.

One woman’s husband was picking up their child when he was pulled over for a traffic violation. He didn't have a license and was sent to jail. When the woman went to pick up her husband from jail his release date, they discovered he had been deported. The woman cried as she told her story of raising her son alone. Other parents in the audience leapt from their seats to hug her.

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey says the union supports the campaign. He said getting a drivers license would make it easier for some families to get work. But it also would make the roads safer.

“In order to get a driver’s license, you have to pass a test. And the test requires you know the rules of the road and understand some basic things about how to drive safely,” he said.

A previous attempt on the license measure failed. That means the upcoming lame duck veto session is an opportunity to pass the legislation, since lawmakers on their way out, won’t have to face voters about controversial plans.