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Illinois House committee approves driver's licenses for illegal immigrants

A measure that would allow people who are in the United States illegally to obtain an Illinois driver’s license is moving through the state legislature.

The House Transportation Safety & Vehicle Committee approved the measure 6-3 Monday, with a room full of supporters cheering upon its passage.

State Rep. Bill Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat, voted against the measure. He said he supports the concept, but he voted against it because the bill does not require fingerprinting driver’s license applicants. He said that leaves the system susceptible to fraud.

“I think our ID system in the state has to have some integrity,” said State. Rep. Bill Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat. “And I fear that it won’t have that unless there is a fingerprinting component.”

“You have to ask, ‘Would people actually use this thing? Would people actually apply for this thing if fingerprints were going to be required?’ testified Fred Tsao, from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “That is a major concern in the community.”

Tsao said a fourth of all counties in the state mandates fingerprint sharing and requiring the Secretary of State’s office, which oversees Illinois’ driver’s license program, would be a disincentive for people in the country illegally to apply for a license.

Alan Mares made the trip to Springfield for the vote from Chicago. After the vote, he said the bill would directly affect him, since he is not a citizen of the U.S.

“I take public transportation, but it would be easier if I had a car or a driver’s license so I could get around the city,” Mares said.

Mares, 19, said he went through a driver’s education program in high school and he has driven before, but he wants the new program to pass so he can obtain the new license.

The governor’s office estimates 250,000 people drive in Illinois without passing the proper tests. The Illinois State Police voiced its support of the measure, but a group representing chiefs of police around Illinois testified against it, saying the bill is unsafe.

The new driver’s license program would not allow those who hold the ID to board planes or vote.

The governor and both Democratic and Republican leadership support the measure. The bill has already passed the Senate with bipartisan support, but the full House of Representatives still needs to approve the measure before it’s sent to the governor’s desk for his signature.

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