I feel compelled to address the article [by William J. Kelly] dated 12/13/12 printed in the Washington Times and Illinois Review. I was a supporter of Highway Safety Legislation Senate Bill 957, which allows 250,000 undocumented immigrants to obtain a temporary visitors driver’s license when I testified before the Illinois Senate last month and I am still a supporter today.
I believe it is important that I correct the record on this story since some members of the Senate may have relied on my testimony. The Illinois Senate had already heard that the faith community and the business community were in support of this legislation hence the only question was where did law enforcement stand on the bill.
I was the only member of law enforcement to testify and I represented that the following law enforcement officials were in support of the legislation: Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, Kane County Sheriff Patrick Perez, Berwyn Police Chief Jim Ritz, Melrose Park Police Chief Rosa Pitassi, Cook County Judge Jesse Reyes, Cook County Judge Patrick McGann, Chicago Police Commander Gary McCarthy, Illinois Hispanic State Law Enforcement Association, Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau, Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
I also represented that I supported the bill although the Illinois Sheriff’s Association was neutral. Greg Sullivan is the Executive Director of the Illinois Sheriff’s Association and is not an elected official. Mr. Sullivan represents the Illinois Sheriff’s Association in the General Assembly and the positions taken by the membership as well as other duties.
The comments in this story were inappropriate and inaccurate in many instances. The inaccuracy I will address below. Mr. Sullivan’s remarks were inappropriate because they clearly spoke ill of the bill. I am a member of the legislative committee of the Illinois Sheriff’s Association and I was present for the discussion regarding this legislation. Why we came to a neutral position is difficult to surmise because different members of the committee would have different reasons. However, I will not expound upon any reasons since they may violate confidences and undermine the only statement that should have been made “the Illinois Sheriff’s Association is neutral.”
The statement raised concerns about the lack of fingerprints to verify identity and lack of tax identification number found within the bill. SB957 (Temporary Visitors Driver’s License) already contains many security and anti-fraud guarantees.
- The TVDL is visually distinct, and states on the License that it cannot be used for purposes other than driving. Therefore it cannot be used to board a plane, purchase a firearm, enter a federal building or vote.
- The TVDL applicants will undergo a biometric identity check
- All TVDL applicants will need to provide a valid current passport or consular ID document. Foreign governments already establish strong procedures for issuing these documents for verifying those that get issued. These governments have no interest in enabling fraud. Secretary of State Office said they do not want to use a tax identification number. They don't want to accept it because they do not feel it is a secure document.
- The Secretary of State photographs all applicants for any license, and uses facial recognition software to prevent duplicate identities.
- All applicants must show they have lived in Illinois for at least one year, so people would not be able to claim bogus addresses in Illinois to get a TVDL.
- The Secretary of State (SOS) will also process applications at a central location in order to verify documents. No one will be issued a TVDL on the same day; SOS will check the applicant’s documents and, if they are legitimate and meet all standards, SOS will send the TVDL to the applicant by mail.
- Finally, the Secretary of State will have the authority to set further standards for which documents he will accept.
Finally on the question of will immigrants with criminal convictions be able to get a TVDL – this is not an issue because undocumented immigrants who are arrested for criminal offenses will in most cases end up getting identified as undocumented and referred to Homeland Security for deportation.
Any real concern about fingerprints is about identity and public safety, these security and anti-fraud measures address them.
In a time of diminishing police forces and lack of revenue, licensing and insuring all immigrant drivers is a smart solution that allows cops to actually do their jobs and go after bad guys and not good people just trying to go to work, school or church, it will ease the burden on jails and courts, which are currently drained by holding people solely for driving without a license or insurance.
Real solutions to tough issues take courage. As law enforcement officials, we have an obligation to pursue sensible solutions to difficult problems especially when they affect the safety of every driver on the road. SB957, is a sensible step forward, and the reward is that all our highways will be safer.