SPRINGFIELD — More than a quarter million illegal immigrants are one step closer to being able to apply for a special driver’s license.
A House committee Monday voted 6-3 to recommend passage of a provision that would allow illegal immigrants who can prove that they have lived in Illinois for at least a year to apply for a special, three-year driver’s license.
A final House vote might be taken today. The Senate approved the measure in December, and Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would sign such a provision.
Supporters estimate more than 250,000 illegal immigrants might qualify for such a license.
The special license could not be used for other purposes, such as boarding an airplane or casting a ballot.
Although the measure has been proposed in the past, it gained new support from a number of top state Republicans after Hispanic voters turned their backs on the GOP in the November elections.
At a hearing Monday, opponents urged legislators to require applicants to be fingerprinted and show proof of a federal tax identification number.
State Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Addison, said other states that issue similar special driver’s licenses have had a problem with fraud.
But measure sponsor Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, said the Illinois Secretary of State’s use of a facial recognition database and the requirement that applicants prove they have been living in Illinois for at least one year should help prevent people from obtaining such licenses fraudulently.
Laimutis Nargelenas, a lobbyist representing the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, and Hanover Park Police Chief David Webb testified against the proposal Monday. Both still urged that applicants be required to provide fingerprints and a federal tax identification number.
“We think fingerprinting is a very big issue,” Webb said.
While proponents said fingerprinting would cost too much in time and money, both Webb and Nargelenas said fingerprinting could be done inexpensively by local police, most who now use digital fingerprinting software.
Nathan Mattox, executive inspector general for the Secretary of State’s office, did not think an applicant should have to supply a federal tax number because such numbers in the past have not been very reliable, although he admitted that the federal revenue department has been working to improve its process.
Fred Tsao, policy director with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said the requirement that applicants prove that they have been living in Illinois for a year, an approach so far unique to this state, should help address fraud concerns.
But several Illinois Republicans, who had not attended Monday’s hearing, echoed some of Reboletti’s concerns.
Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, said he was “disinclined” to vote in favor of the proposal but said he was still open.
“I think the bill has a lot of problems,” Morthland said. “So far, I haven’t seen anything I’m ready to jump on.”
Morthland said he had particular concerns that people may be able to use aliases to get licenses.
Rep. Adam Brown, R-Decatur, said he would oppose the provision. “I support the rights of all folks who are here legally,” Brown said, adding that the ability to get a driver’s license should not be given to people who have not taken steps to become a citizen.
Rep. Keith Sommer, R-Morton, said he could not support such a special license. “My belief is driving is a privilege, not a right, and I don’t think it should be extended to those here illegally.”
Sommer said he also was not convinced that the proposal would really help keep highways safer, as proponents have argued.
The legislation is Senate Bill 957.