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Illinois Illegal Immigrants Can Soon Apply for Driver’s Licenses

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CHICAGO, Ill. (KMOX/AP) – The new program to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants is ready to be rolled out. Supporters say the new Illinois will save motorists money and make roadways safer.

Secretary of State Jesse White said Tuesday a pilot program will begin at four state driver services facilities and a rollout at 21 other locations is scheduled for January. His office expects some 250,000 people could apply in the first two years.

Supporters of the law say many of those people already are driving and that by offering the so-called “temporary visitor” license, the state can ensure more motorists have passed vision, written and driving tests. They also will be required to obtain auto insurance.

“So it made all the sense in the world for us to recognize the fact that as Washington, D.C. deals with the issues of immigration, we here in the state of Illinois have to deal with the safety of our roads,” said Senate President John Cullerton, the bill’s sponsor.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation allowing the licenses earlier this year, after the Legislature approved it with bipartisan support. Quinn, White and Cullerton all are Chicago Democrats.

The licenses are valid for three years and may be used only for driving. They can’t be used as identification for activities like boarding a plane, voting or buying a firearm. Unlike a standard driver’s license, which has a red stripe across the top and may be renewed every four years, the temporary visitor licenses have a purple stripe. License holders must reapply as a new applicant after three years.

Critics say there’s a potential for identity fraud. They also say the state should be cracking down on immigrants who broke the law by entering the country illegally, not accommodating them or making Illinois a more attractive place for them to live.

White also noted implementing the program has cost his office $1 million money he said he came up with by making “some sacrifices” in other areas. Among the new costs was adding staff to meet in-person with applicants, translators and employees to verify application documents.

The office expects the $30 fee per license the same as for a standard driver’s license will eventually cover the cost of administering the program. But Nathan Maddox, a lawyer for White’s office, acknowledged there are “no firm numbers” on how many immigrants are living in Illinois and may apply for the licenses.

Applicants must make an appointment in advance, which they may begin doing next month. They must provide several pieces of identification, including documents that show they have lived in Illinois for at least one year.

The applications will be processed through a central facility in Springfield. Licenses are expected to be mailed within 15 to 20 business days.

White also said his office has no intention of sharing information it receives with federal immigration officials. But Maddox said if presented with a valid subpoena from a law enforcement agency, the secretary of state’s office would be obligated to comply.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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