This week the Illinois Senate voted in favor of legislation to give temporary driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. I voted against Senate Bill 957. On the surface it looks like the proposal has some merit, after all it could have the potential to ensure that more drivers on the road are insured and properly trained. While this goal is commendable, taking a deeper look it’s clear that this legislation is fatally flawed, and bad for Illinois.
This bill opens the door for rampant fraud and in fact, fraud is exactly what has happened in two other states where this type of a proposal has been passed. A similar law was implemented in 2003 in New Mexico, and now, Governor Susana Martinez says it has opened the door for fraudulent behavior.
According to Governor Martinez there are an estimated 49,000 undocumented immigrants that live in New Mexico, but 80,000 licenses have been issued to foreign nationals who are not from the state. As recently as this June 30 people were indicted for obtaining licenses in connection to an alleged illegal driver’s license ring where undocumented immigrants from South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee were able to obtain licenses in New Mexico by using forged utility bills.
Similar fraud occurred in Tennessee. In Tennessee, Like in New Mexico, people from other states obtained certificates using forged documents and then exchanged the certificates for regular licenses in the states where they lived. Tennessee’s program was eventually suspended and ultimately the law was deemed too flawed and done away with entirely.
One of the arguments made in favor of the Senate Bill 957 is that it will make it possible for more drivers on the road to be insured. However New Mexico, where illegal immigrants are able to get licenses, has the second highest percentage of uninsured drivers in the nation. In addition to having little chance of effecting levels of uninsured drivers there are no real consequences for those who fail to comply with the law.
People who are already here illegally will not go out and get the proper training to get a license and get insured. Furthermore, giving licenses, even temporary ones, to illegal immigrants legitimizes criminal behavior. If this type of law has failed in other states why should we believe that it will have the intended impact in Illinois? This bill is bad for Illinois and I urge my colleagues in the Illinois House to vote against it, and Governor Quinn to veto it if it reaches his desk.
State Senator 37th District