Illinois’ Most Powerful Politicians Back Licenses for Undocumented

Illinois may become the most populous state in the nation to grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

By Jorge Rivas Nov 21, 2012

Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton’s effort to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants is getting high profile, bipartisan support.

Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, House Republican Leader Tom Cross and former Illinois governors Jim Edgar and James Thompson attended a press conference on Tuesday to announce support for "legislation that requires all Illinois drivers to get licensed and be insured."

The bipartisan group of politicians plan to propose the law when the legislature convenes on November 27. Gov. Quinn has pledged to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

"This is a safety issue that impacts every driver in Illinois and we should join together to take swift action to save lives," Gov. Quinn said in a statement. "Making sure all motorists, regardless of their background, are licensed and insured will drive economic growth and ease the financial burden on all Illinois motorists."

Chicago Mayor Emanuel has also publicly supported the new law that would benefit an estimated 250,000 unlicensed immigrants.

"I strongly support state legislation that will allow every Chicagoan, regardless of legal status, to enjoy the rights and responsibilities that come with a driver’s license," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. "I commend Senate President John Cullerton for his leadership to introduce legislation during the 2012 veto session to require all Illinois drivers, including undocumented drivers, to get trained, licensed and insured. I will be a strong advocate for this bill as we work to make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the country."

Washington state and New Mexico are the only states that currently allow undocumented immigrants to get licenses. Utah allows driving permits. As the fifth most populous state, Illinois would be the biggest state to adopt such a law.

Starting January 1, 2013, immigrants in California that have received work permits through the federal Deferred Action program will be eligible for Driver’s licenses. The following states will also grant temporary driver’s licenses to individuals with a federal work permit: Texas, New York, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon and Georgia.