CALUMET CITY | State Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, said Thursday when lawmakers this week approved a bill permitting undocumented immigrants to obtain legitimate Illinois driver’s licenses, there were about 100 area residents who made the trip to Springfield to express their support.
Jones said he was surprised, but also pleased, to see so many people who were neither lobbyists nor activists who traveled to the Capitol to express their views on the bill that Jones described as “giving the undocumented the right to drive” their cars legally.
“They were advocates for the bill, they were concerned citizens and they made the trip” of roughly 200 miles to Springfield, Jones said.
“Some of them even stayed in the capital for the day and saw their government at work,” said Jones. “I want to thank them for coming down.”
The bill in question, which now needs Gov. Pat Quinn’s approval before it becomes law, creates a new class of driver’s license in Illinois that noncitizens can apply for. The license permits those people to drive legally, but it cannot be used for identification purposes like a standard driver’s license can.
Such drivers would also have to comply with all laws, including auto insurance requirements, to keep their licenses. State officials have said they believe about 250,000 people will be affected by the measure when it becomes law.
That bill was approved by the state Senate in December, and by the Illinois House on Tuesday by a 65-46 vote. Among the measure’s supporters were area legislators including Jones; Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights; Marcus Evans, D-Chicago; Al Riley, D-Hazel Crest; and Elgie Sims, D-Chicago. State Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, did not vote on the bill.
The bill was opposed by some Illinois House Black Caucus members who said they thought it unfair that noncitizens would be considered for driver’s licenses while citizens could lose their driver’s licenses for issues such as unpaid child support.
But Jones said that a majority of the Black Caucus was supportive of the issue, which was a legislative priority for the Latino members of the General Assembly.
“We met with the Latino Caucus,” said Jones, adding this is merely one of many issues the two caucuses will work together on.
“Our goal is to have a coalition that can work together, because there are issues of concern to the black community that will be coming up,” Jones said.