Not everyone can wait for immigration reform. On Sunday, Illinois became the fourth and most populous state in the country to grant driver license eligibility to undocumented immigrants when Gov. Pat Quinn signed his state’s measure into law.
The program, which will begin rolling out in October, will grant undocumented immigrants the right to apply for temporary visitor driver’s licenses, three-year licenses similar to those granted to people in the country on a temporary visa. Illinois follows New Mexico, Washington and Utah by instituting a program for undocumented immigrants to drive with a license in hand. And, in a nod to immigration restrictionists, the licenses will not be valid for any other use than driving. Undocumented immigrants may not use them as a valid form of government ID; they’ll be distinguished from Illinois’ red licenses with a blue background
An estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrants drive in Illinois, and according to an estimate from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, their being uninsured and unlicensed costs insurance companies $64 million in claims a year. Illinois’ program will improve those costs and decrease the number of hit-and-run incidents unlicensed undocumented drivers are involved in every year, advocates have long argued.
Indeed, the law comes just weeks after the California Department of Motor Vehicles released a report which suggests that opening driver’s licenses to people regardless of immigration status could actually save lives, confirming the basic public safety argument immigrant rights advocates have made for years. Unlicensed drivers are three times as likely as licensed ones to cause fatal crashes, suggesting something which should not be a huge surprise; requiring driver’s to pass written and driving tests improves road safety.