Dec. 05, 2012 -- Undocumented immigrants in Illinois may soon be eligible for driver's licenses.
The Democratic-controlled state Senate voted on Tuesday to approve licenses. If the effort passes the House, which Democrats also hold, and is signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn (D), Illinois will be the most populous state in the country to allow undocumented immigrants to legally drive.
Only two other states, New Mexico and Washington, grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. California will allow those with federal work permits to obtain licenses next year, and Utah allows undocumented immigrants to receive driving permits.
The bill would allow about 250,000 undocumented immigrants in the state to apply for three-year renewable licenses. They would look different than standard licenses, and feature a purple background and the phrase "not for identification," according to Reuters. They may not be used for other identification purposes, such as for boarding an airplane or buying a gun.
"They are here and they are with us, some of them not even of their own volition. But I guess we expect these people to ride their bicycles to work," Illinois State Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said at a press conference, notes Reuters.
Unlicensed, uninsured drivers are involved in nearly 80,000 accidents in Illinois each year, Reuters reports, citing Illinois Highway Safety Coalition numbers. Undocumented immigrant drivers cost more than $60 million in damage claims.
Critics have argued that giving licenses to undocumented immigrants could foster corruption among Illinois politicians. The Safer Families Coalition ran an ad reminding voters that an undocumented immigrant who bribed an official to obtain a license was involved in a crash that killed young children.
"An illegally licensed truck driver had paid a bribe to receive his license because he couldn't pass the test. Illinois families can't afford the risk of this new bill," reads a statement on YouTube.
While the bill in Illinois relates to driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants in general, the Obama administration's decision to allow some undocumented young people to apply for temporary repreives from deportation has brought the issue of licenses to the forefront in many states. States such as Arizona and Nebraska have said they will not issue licenses to deferred action recipients even with an employment authorization card, while other states, including Nevada, California and Florida have said they will issue driver's licenses to those approved for deferred action.