Immigration

Nearly 50,000 Undocumented Illinois Immigrants Queue Up For Driver's Licenses

| by Allison Geller

Forty-seven thousand undocumented immigrants living in Illinois have begun the process to obtain driver’s licenses since the state’s program began in December.

About 42,000 immigrants have requested appointments, and 5,000 have already applied, according to the Illinois Secretary of State’s offices. Officials anticipate as many as 500,000 applications this year, NWI reported.

The permits are considered temporary visitor’s licenses and are good for three years. They will differ in apperance from Illinois' regular license, with a purple border instead of a red one. To obtain one, each applicant must have lived in the state for a year and must show he or she has insurance, in addition to passing a vision test, a written test, and a road test.

Illinois’ program, one of 10 others nationwide, is the largest of its kind.

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"It's a monumental task," said Henry Haupt, spokesman for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.

The state began testing the system in a limited number of facilities in December to work out any kinks.

“We're very pleased with the way the program has been going and continues to evolve," Haupt said.

Other states are looking to Illinois as an example for how the rollout will go. In addition to the 10 states with similar programs in place (though some have later implementation dates, such as California, which will begin issuing immigrant licenses in 2015), 25 more states considered similar measures in last year’s legislative session. 

"They represent a growing trend toward inclusive state policies that recognize that immigrants are part of our community," Melissa Keaney, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, told Reuters. "If someone's going to drive, we want them to be sure they know the rules of the road."

With immigration reform becoming an increasingly hot political topic, immigrants and advocates in states like New York are pushing for license programs, hoping that more understanding attitudes will help their campaigns. 

Sources: NWI, Reuters