Sheriff Supports Bill to Grant Undocumented Immigrants Driver's Licenses

Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran Jr. joins a coalition along with other sheriffs to push bill through General Assembly.

Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran Jr. is backing a bill requiring all Illinois drivers be licensed and insured including undocumented immigrants.

Curran joined with the Highway Safety Coalition Tuesday in a press conference Tuesday calling on the Illinois General Assembly to “have courage and put highway safety first by passing legislation in veto session 2012 to require all Illinois drivers to be licensed and insured.”

“There are a lot of undocumented immigrants that need to get to work and by virtue of the way the system is set up, by having to have a social security number, are not eligible to get a driver’s license,” Curran said.

“By making sure they get licenses, we can ensure that they are going through a process (to learn) the Rules of the Road and learn what is expected on American roadways,” he said. “It will make the roads safer.”

The Highway Safety Coalition, made up of law enforcement, healthcare, business, education, labor, faith and community leaders, is supporting a bill sponsored by Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and House Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago.

A draft of the bill is expected to be completed by next week and backers will decide when to present it to the General Assembly, said Lawrence Benito, CEO of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR).

“There are a number of organizations, associations and individuals who see a need to address the issue of the 250,000 people currently driving on our roads who are not licensed to drive,” Benito said. “I think people see the need at a policy level and at a safety level to address this issue immediately.”

According to the coalition, unlicensed and uninsured drivers are involved in 79,600 accidents each year in Illinois, which cost $660 million in damage claims. Nationwide, unlicensed motors are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than licensed drivers, the coalition said.

Locally, Lake County’s population is 21 percent Latino and the county has a large concentration of Polish population, Curran said.

“We have a sizable undocumented population, there is no doubt about it,” he said

Sheriff’s deputies spend a lot of time handling reports dealing with unlicensed or uninsured drivers and nearly 1/3 of all inmates booked into the county jail, based on data from 2011 to 2012, are undocumented immigrants who could not get a driver’s license, Curran said.

“It takes a lot of patrol time that can be spent responding to calls or doing neighborhood patrols,” he said. “It can also cause delay in response to serious calls.”

Other states, like Washington and New Mexico, require all motorists, including undocumented immigrants, get a driver’s license, according to the coalition. Since New Mexico made this change in 2003, its rate of uninsured motorists fell from 33 percent to under 9 percent. New Mexico also saw a 24 percent decrease in alcohol-related crashes and a 25 percent drop in traffic fatalities, according to the coaltion.

Supporters also argue that licensing all drivers will help first responders and healthcare providers to identify patients under their care, verify patient medical history and facilitate patient billing, the coalition stated.

A similar bill almost passed in 2007 and it had the support of many law enforcement associations, Benito said. The coalition will seek that support again this time around but the associations want to see specific language before publically offering support, he said.

Curran, Benito and other coalition members feel this is the right time to try to get the bill passed.

The national narrative since the Nov. 4 federal and state elections has brought immigration issues to the forefront, especially for Latinos. Benito said Latinos showed their political force and both parties cannot take the fast growing population for granted.

“I think there are some people who think it makes good political sense given the outcome of the election,” Benito said.

“Conservatives like U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, (Senator) Lindsey Graham, (Senator) John McCain and (conservative radio host) Sean Hannity, immigration stalwarts of the Republican Party have evolved and are looking to get on the right side of the immigration issue,” Benito said. “We believe there is a case to be made at the state and local level as well.”

Don Rosenberg November 17, 2012 at 05:02 AM
Jeff, you are mostly correct. The argument that they only do work others won't is bogus. Only 3% off all illegal aliens work in agriculture which there is a government program that allows seasonal workers to enter the country. But you comment blaming the liberal society is off base. Yes the liberals do everything to protect illegal aliens once they are here but it's mostly conservative run businesses that hire them. Check out the Chamber of Commerce's position on illegal immigration. They love it because they provide cheap labor and depress wages. This is a problem that up until now neither side wanted o solve. Now they might be forced to act on it.
Don Rosenberg November 17, 2012 at 05:20 AM
Brian, the fact that many people assume that every Latino is here illegally (Jeff not saying you do but it is a problem) is why they do need to be deported. It's not fair to Latinos that they are guilty by their last name and appearance and that will never change as long as we allow illegal aliens to stay (the people brought here as children should be allowed to stay). Two recent studies showed that 45% of legal California Hispanics did not want illegal aliens to get driver's licenses. In New Mexico where illegals can get DL's 62% of Hispanics want the law changed along with the Hispanic governor. As to deporting them all what is the cost of letting them stay? We don't have to go door to door we have to have a program that makes them want to leave and rewards them for getting back in. We have to not let them work and severely punish (jail time) people who hire them. End part 1
Don Rosenberg November 17, 2012 at 05:21 AM
Part 2 We need to provide them with medical care if necessary and then deport them. We need to verify that every child who enters school is in the country legally.Yes many are hard working very nice people but you cannot reward bad behavior and not expect to get more of the same. As to sealing the borders in a physical sense it is impossible. Forty-Five % of all illegal aliens in this country cam in on legal visitor visa's and just decided to stay. No wall will keep them out.Finally, when Reagan gave amnesty in the 80"s we had about 3 million illegal aliens. They became eligible for better jobs with better pay (still undercutting citizens's). The companies that wanted the cheap exploitable illegal workes just waited as more illegals flowed into the country. We now have 15-20 million illegal aliens. Give them amnesty and the same thing will happen only faster. People from other countries have to know that we will not let them enter the country illegally and if hey do they will get NOTHING but quickly deported. Come back again and they will get major jail time in our worst prisons. We have spent 11 years, wasted 2000 lives and spent two trillion to get the Taliban out of Afghanistan. I think we can get illegal aliens out of the US and for the most part they won't shoot back.
Gina Proimmigration November 19, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Jeff if you think you can do a better job why don't you go and run for Sheriff? I would LOVE to see how many votes you'd get, or better yet not get. I don't think that you know very much about the matter of immigration and I think that you are the type of individual that likes to blame your burdens on others. It was truly a waste of your time to comment on this matter without first reading a little on the subject. Your arguments are invalid. Also, work on your spelling it's annoying to try and decipher what you're trying to say.
Raz November 20, 2012 at 08:26 AM
Are you kidding me??? What about ILLEGAL is misunderstood? My parents had to take medical exams to enter this country, many years ago. Do they still require that? Guess it doesn't matter if being an ILLEGAL means nothing now! I can agree to disagree with anyone but, in this case, this is wrong! Period!


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