Powerful Illinois politicians push for driver's licenses for immigrants here illegally

November 20, 2012

(WBEZ/Tony Arnold)
Several Illinois politicians attended a news conference promoting new driver's license regulations for those in the country illegally, including, from left, Senate President John Cullerton, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, and Gov. Pat Quinn.

Several powerful Illinois Democrats are supporting a measure that would give driver’s licenses to immigrants who are here illegally.

The governor’s office estimates 250,000 immigrants are on Illinois roads without having passed a driving test.

Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton said he wants the legislation to come up for a vote during the veto session, which starts next week.

“Our insurance premiums will go down. The crashes on our highways and the fatalities will go down. And we will have a record for people who are stopped for traffic violations,” Cullerton said. “And so it’s really a highway safety measure in my mind. It obviously has some other benefits. It’s very symbolic, but it’s also very practical.”

A spokesman for the Illinois Secretary of State’s office said drivers in Illinois currently need a Social Security Number to get a license.

Meanwhile, representatives for the Republican leaders in the House and Senate were not immediately available for comment.

But two Republicans spoke in favor of the legislation at the same event as Cullerton. Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar called the proposal “morally fair, economically sound and politically smart,” while Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said the measure was a long time coming.

Both Edgar and Topinka are not able to vote on the measure since they’re not members of the Illinois General Assembly.