Illinois will join Washington and New Mexico in being one of three states that allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses in the United States.
Bipartisan support in the Illinois House and Senate passed the law that will grant more than 250,000 illegal immigrants to have a VTDL (Valid Temporary Drivers License) in the state.
While these licenses are granting undocumented immigrants highway-driving privileges, lawmakers say that they may not be classified as an official form of identification.
“It seems backwards to me,” Oklahoma Christian University Associate Professor of History Matt McCook said. “I have a problem with saying that [the United States] is going to go ahead and legalize them driving on the road, and yet they’re not here in the country legally.”
Some states have adopted a law similar to Illinois’ but is restricted to executive amnesty recipients. Gov. Daniel Malloy confirmed the law passed in Connecticut Jan. 10, 2013.
Those protected under the Obama Administration’s Dream Act (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program will be granted driving rights. Nevada is still in the decision-making process of whether or not they will adopt this law as well.
Senior Genesis Rodriguez said that placing restrictions on those the law applies to could be reasonable.
“Some illegal immigrants are in different positions than the rest,” Rodriguez said. “For instance, those that were brought [to the U.S.] as children without having a say. In such cases I think the law should differ for them.”
To qualify for the Dream Act, one must meet the following requirements: have entered the U.S. before 16 years of age, have lived in the U.S. for at least five years before June 15, 2012, be under 31 years of age by June 15, 2012, have graduated high school (or equivalent), be enrolled in or a veteran of the U.S. military, and have a clean background check.
The Connecticut governor’s office has said that their version of the law would give approximately 5,000 people with executive amnesty eligibility to apply for the license.
Although those affected by this law will vary, most states have claimed that by creating this law, highway safety will improve because each will be required to take a standard driving test. Senior Austin Hughes and sophomore Michael Olson said the chances of this law making a significant impact on safety are slight.
“People are people, and they’re going to make mistakes no matter what,” Olson said. “This [law] might help in two or three accidents, but it really just gives a safer mindset to the government.”
Hughes said that passing a driving test might not be enough to make a difference on the road.
“If you can reach the petals, know where the blinker is and know what S-T-O-P means then you have passed a drivers test,” Hughes said. “Anyone with any common sense whatsoever can pass it.”
Hughes pointed out that although undocumented immigrants may not possess a driver’s license in the U.S., this does not mean that they did not drive in their country of origin.
“They could have had a license in their home country and have driven frequently,” Hughes said. “If they are already driving here illegally, they are probably more careful driving to not get pulled over as it is because they know they’re not allowed to be here. I don’t think it will make driving conditions safer at all.”
In addition to passing standardized driving tests, anyone applying for this license must verify proof of residence in Illinois for a minimum of one year.
They will also be required to make an appointment to fill out paperwork with the Department of Motor Vehicles beyond the regular requirements for a driver’s license.
McCook said there is a lot of concern that these undocumented immigrants are not going to apply for the license because it could put them on record and potentially target them for removal from the country.
In other parts of the country, immigration laws have been increased.
Oklahoma, Texas and several other states have implemented laws that some say are even stricter than those enforced in 2012 in Arizona.
“Oklahoma recently passed a law that incarcerated all illegal immigrants and shipped them back to where they came from unless they wanted to become American citizens,” Hughes said. “That cut down our illegal population drastically because [illegal immigrants] knew they couldn’t get away with [being in the U.S. illegally].”
Though these states have been accused of being too harsh on their immigration policies, McCook said he is OK with Oklahoma’s current policies.
“It’s not a matter of [illegal immigrants] being lesser beings or anything remotely like that,” McCook said. “Everyone has to have some legal rule system they go through to become a citizen, or it’s really not fair to everyone who does try to play by the rules and waits and takes all the necessary steps.”
McCook said it is nice to be a nation that is from all over the globe, but we don’t have an unlimited capacity to absorb as many people as can come.
Hughes said he doesn’t have any problem with immigration, but that people need to come to the U.S. legally.
“They’re called illegal immigrants for a reason: because it is illegal for them to be here without obtaining citizenship,” Hughes said. “I can’t drive 75 miles per hour in a school zone because it’s illegal. It’s the same concept.”