States Moving in Opposite Directions Regarding Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

A new Illinois law will allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.    The bill, signed Monday by Illinois governor Pat Quinn, could affect as many as 250,000 unlicensed drivers in the state.  The bill will allow persons who are not eligible for social security numbers to apply for driver’s licenses as long as they have car insurance and can pass a road test.

Quinn says the bill is primarily aimed improving road safety rather than issues relating to illegal immigration.  As it stands, $64 million each year in damages are claimed in accidents relating to uninsured drivers.  Introducing licensing provisions for undocumented immigrants will ensure more drivers have access to insurance and will lower insurance premiums for all Illinois drivers.

Additionally, Quinn says the bill will have a positive effect on Illinois’ economy, citing studies that show that immigrants who can legally drive are more likely to “work, spend, and contribute to the economy.”

Immigration rights groups are happy about the new law, saying it’s a sign of inclusiveness and a harbinger for humane immigration reform.  The state’s Republican representatives are happy with the new law, too – state Minority House Representative Tom Cross says the new law will make “the road safer for all residents.”

Meanwhile, New Mexico governor Susana Martinez has revealed that she’s planning to push to have a similar law currently in place in her state repealed.  Martinez, who calls the law “dangerous,” has tried twice in the past to repeal the provisions.  She and the law’s detractors argue that it makes the state a magnet for fraud and even human trafficking.  New Mexico’s secretary of taxation and revenue, Demesia Padilla, has argued that illegal immigrants come to New Mexico from around the United States to obtain licenses without an intention of staying in the state permanently.

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