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Local lawmakers split on immigrant license bill

State Rep. Tom Cross. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

State Rep. Tom Cross. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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How they voted

By a 65-46 vote Tuesday, the Illinois House approved a measure making undocumented immigrants who have lived in Illinois for one year eligible to receive a temporary visitors driver’s license that would last for three years. Those motorists would have to undergo rules-of-the-road training, take a vision test and show proof of auto insurance.

Here’s how area legislators voted on the measure:

Yes: Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora; Tom Cross, R-Oswego; Mike Fortner, R-West Chicago; Robert Pritchard, R-Hinckley; Darlene Senger, R-Naperville

No: Mike Connelly, R-Naperville; Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville; Randy Ramey, R-West Chicago; Tim Schmitz, R-Batavia

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Updated: February 10, 2013 6:03PM



SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn Tuesday signaled his intent to sign legislation that would grant undocumented immigrants three-year state driver’s licenses, saying the measure that passed the House would wind up saving lives on Illinois roads.

“More than 250,000 immigrant motorists on our roads today have not passed a driving test, which presents a dangerous risk to other drivers,” Quinn said in a statement that announced his plans to sign the bill. “Illinois roads will be safer if we ensure every driver learns the rules of the road and is trained to drive safely.”

After a highly charged debate, the Illinois House passed the measure, Senate Bill 957, by a 65-46 margin, a vote that lit up the chamber with celebratory shouts and applause, and grants as many as 250,000 undocumented immigrants new legal recognition by the state. The bill was approved by the State Senate two days prior.

The nine members of the House from the Fox Valley and Naperville split their votes, with five in favor and four opposed.

“Under the eyes of God, we’re all human beings,” said Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, the bill’s chief House sponsor. “We come to this country — people come to this country — to fulfill the American dream. We can offer them that today.”

Debate in the House lasted nearly 90 minutes, with critics arguing the new immigrant driver’s licenses put the state on record as condoning illegal entry into the country, set up a system that can be exploited by fraud and ignore the fact immigration policy is a federal responsibility, not a state one.

“There will be fraud, abuse. All I have to say is people have called me a hater, a racist,” said Rep. Randy Ramey, R-West Chicago, who voted against the plan. “All I’m doing is standing by what the Constitution of the United States of America says. If the fed government wants to change the rules, I’d stand by that.”

Further, some GOP critics insisted there should be requirements that immigrant license applicants be fingerprinted and show federal tax identification numbers to verify their identities. But their position was at odds with their leader, House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, who voted for the plan.

“At the end of the day, forgetting just nuances of this particular bill, I’d like to think we’d continue to be a country and a state ... that remains open to the idea of people coming to our country, who want to do better, who want to have better lives, who want to work, who want to be part of our communities,” Cross said. “We should work with them, not fight with them, as we move ahead as a state and a country.”

Nine other House Republicans joined Cross as “yes” votes in Tuesday’s roll call.

Other opponents, including several Chicago South Side Democrats, pointed out the unfairness of how someone in the U.S. legally can be deprived of driving privileges for not paying child support when those here illegally now could get a driver’s license.

Under the plan, undocumented immigrants who have lived in Illinois for one year would be eligible to receive a temporary visitors driver’s license that would last for three years.

Those motorists would undergo rules-of-the-road training, take a vision test and show proof of insurance.

Supporters called the bill a highway-safety measure because it will ensure that tens of thousands of immigrant drivers now on the roads illegally will undergo training and buy insurance.



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