Illegal Immigrant, Legal Driver

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Undocumented immigrants will now be able to drive legally in Illinois (photo by Sal J. Barry)

By Sal J. Barry

Undocumented immigrants do not have many of the same rights and protections as citizens, but starting in December they will be able to legally drive a car in Illinois.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Jessie White’s office announced that Illinois will issue what they are calling “temporary visitor drivers licenses” (TVDL), making it possible for the estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants living in the state to legally operate a motor vehicle. Until now, only legal aliens could obtain a TVDL.

“Before the implementation of this law, individuals would have an automobile crash and they would leave the car and they would run,” White told the Chicago Tribune.  “Now they don’t have to run because now they can stand and say to the officer, tell their story of how the accident occurred, show their driver’s license, show their registration card.”

The new TVDL cards will not give undocumented immigrants all of the same privileges as a normal driver’s license, though. For example, it cannot be used as official identification for boarding a plane or purchasing a gun. Likewise, it does not give them the right to vote.

TVDLs will be distinguished by a purple stripe across the top — standard driver’s licenses bear a red stripe — as well as the phrase “NOT VALID FOR IDENTIFICATION” in uppercase red letters.

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An Illinois driver’s license (left) and a TVDL. (Image taken from the ICIRR TVDL Fact Sheet PDF).

The $30-per-license fee is expected to generate $3 million annually. It will also allow undocumented immigrants, as legal drivers in Illinois, to purchase auto insurance. This would benefit other insured motorists in case of an accident.

According to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), the new TVDL cards will also provide “a concrete solution to the problem of document fraud by drying up the black market for expensive fraudulent documents.” No longer will illegal immigrants need to rely on forged paperwork to obtain a license. Likewise, obtaining a TVDL legally would “prove that the person behind the wheel has been trained, tested, licensed and insured.” (Full article here.)

Obtaining a driver’s license does not solve the overarching problem of immigration reform in this country. But it does grant the estimated half-million people in Illinois the privilege to drive, allowing them to legally drive to work, take their kids to school, go grocery shopping, and do many of the other tasks necessary for living in this state.

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