INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana could become the fourth state to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants if a proposal sponsored by state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, becomes law.
Mrvan told The Times on Wednesday he's preparing to file legislation this week eliminating the requirement that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles only issue driver's licenses to Indiana residents able to prove legal status in the United States.
He said making driver's licenses available to the state's estimated 200,000 illegal immigrants, many of whom currently drive without a license, will improve road safety by ensuring all motorists on Indiana highways know the rules of the road and how to properly operate a vehicle. Licensed drivers also are required to be insured, he said.
"I personally can't see why anyone would vote against it," Mrvan said. "Of course, a certain population is going to go crazy, and I anticipate that."
But the nine-term senator said his proposal is a perfect opportunity for the Republican Senate majority to show interest in one of the issues affecting the fastest-growing minority group in the state.
"They want to reach out to Hispanics? This is a good way to do it," Mrvan said.
Illinois lawmakers approved similar legislation Tuesday, and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said he'll sign it. Washington and New Mexico already issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
Mrvan revealed his driver's license proposal Wednesday following the first meeting of the Senate Democrats' Latino Round Table.
For more than 90 minutes, Latino community leaders from Northwest Indiana and other parts of the state spoke with lawmakers about the challenges Hispanic Hoosiers deal with on a daily basis.
The legislators agreed schools need to do a better job teaching English at a younger age, promoting student mentoring and high school graduation and ensuring broadband Internet access throughout the state.
State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, told participants she's sponsored Senate Bill 420, the "Indiana Dream Act," enabling students who attend an Indiana high school for at least three years and graduate to qualify for in-state college tuition, regardless of their immigration status.