Il­le­gals may get driver’s li­censes in Illi­nois

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Illi­nois’ top lead­ers said Nov. 20 that they will push to is­sue driver’s li­censes to il­le­gal aliens — test­ing fed­eral stric­tures and be­com­ing the lat­est sign that the pen­du­lum has swung away from Ari­zona-style crack­downs and to­ward those pur­su­ing a softer line on im­mi­gra­tion.

Sur­rounded by Repub­li­cans and Democrats at a news con­fer­ence, state Se­nate Pres­i­dent John Culler­ton said he will try to pass leg­is­la­tion in the coming weeks, and Gov. Pat Quinn said he will sign it if it reaches his desk.

“This is a safety is­sue that im­pacts ev­ery driver in Illi­nois, and we should join to­gether to take swift ac­tion to save lives,” said Mr. Quinn, a Demo­crat. “Mak­ing sure all mo­torists, re­gard­less of their back­ground, are li­censed and in­sured will drive eco­nomic growth and ease the fi­nan­cial bur­den on all Illi­nois mo­torists.”

The move rep­re­sents the first ma­jor back­track by a state since the af­ter­math of the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks nearly a decade ago, when the hi­jack­ers used li­censes, of­ten ob­tained by fraud, to board the air­planes they used to tar­get the World Trade Cen­ter tow­ers, the Pen­tagon and, po­ten­tially, the U.S. Capi­tol or White House.

In the wake of those at­tacks, the na­tional com­mis­sion es­tab­lished to look into prob­lems urged the fed­eral government to set a na­tional stan­dard for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards such as driver’s li­censes. In re­sponse, Congress wrote the Real ID Act, which in­cluded the re­quire­ment that fed­er­ally com­pli­ant li­censes be valid only while some­one is in the coun­try legally.

Many states moved to em­brace that stan­dard, and now only two states — New Mex­ico and Washington — is­sue driver’s li­censes to il­le­gal aliens with­out any de­mar­ca­tion. Utah is­sues li­censes to il­le­gal aliens, but those are marked as non­com­pli­ant.

Jan­ice Kephart, former coun­sel to the Sept. 11 Com­mis­sion, who fo­cused on the ter­ror­ists’ travel, said Illi­nois’ move dents the fed­eral law.

“I wouldn’t say it’s get­ting rid of Real ID, but it’s numb­ing Real ID,” she said.

For most of the past decade, states seemed to be mov­ing in the other di­rec­tion. Ari­zona, fol­lowed by a hand­ful of other states, en­acted laws crack­ing down on busi­nesses that hire il­le­gal aliens and grant­ing po­lice broader pow­ers to check the iden­ti­ties of sus­pected il­le­gals. State and lo­cal po­lice de­part­ments also flooded the fed­eral government with re­quests to part­ner on en­forc­ing im­mi­gra­tion laws.

The Supreme Court this sum­mer up­held a key part of Ari­zona’s law that al­lowed po­lice to per­form the iden­tity checks, though the jus­tices struck down ef­forts to write into law state penal­ties for be­ing here il­le­gally.

But states al­ready started mov­ing in the other di­rec­tion.

Sev­eral states, in­clud­ing Mary­land, en­acted leg­is­la­tion grant­ing in-state tuition rates to some il­le­gal im­mi­grants. Af­ter Pres­i­dent Obama an­nounced that he would halt de­por­ta­tions for most young il­le­gal aliens who were brought to the U.S. by age 16, a hand­ful of states said they would move to grant those folks driver’s li­censes.

Illi­nois, though, is go­ing the fur­thest, say­ing it wants all drivers to be li­censed if they are on Illi­nois roads.

Even Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who dur­ing his time in Congress and as chief of staff in Mr. Obama’s White House was seen as a ma­jor road­block to Democrats’ im­mi­gra­tion leg­is­la­tion, backed the call for li­censes.

“I strongly sup­port state leg­is­la­tion that will al­low ev­ery pro­gram that al­lows le­gal for­eign vis­i­tors to get tem­po­rary li­censes.

Ms. Kephart said if they fol­low Utah’s model and make it clear the li­cense is not valid for fed­eral pur­poses such as board­ing an air­craft or en­ter­ing a fed­eral build­ing, it would not run afoul of Real ID.

The is­sue of li­censes have been touchy for years. Driver’s li­censes are con­sid­ered an en­try

The move rep­re­sents the first ma­jor back­track by a state since the

af­ter­math of the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks nearly a decade ago, when the hi­jack­ers used li­censes, of­ten ob­tained by fraud, to board the air­planes they used to tar­get the World Trade Cen­ter tow­ers, the Pen­tagon and, po­ten­tially, the U.S. Capi­tol or White House.

Chicagoan, re­gard­less of le­gal sta­tus, to en­joy the rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that come with a driver’s li­cense,” he said. “I will be a strong ad­vo­cate for this bill as we work to make Chicago the most im­mi­grant-friendly city in the coun­try.”

No leg­is­la­tion has been writ­ten, so it re­mains to be seen how Illi­nois han­dles the de­tails. Lo­cal news re­ports said il­le­gal im­mi­grants likely would join a into much of Amer­i­can so­ci­ety, and those who fa­vor a crack­down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion say grant­ing them to il­le­gal aliens helps law­break­ers blend in.

But those who sup­port the idea say it makes all com­mu­ni­ties safer by re­duc­ing the num­ber of unin­sured drivers and giv­ing po­lice a way to iden­tify peo­ple ac­cu­rately.

Illi­nois of­fi­cials said there are 250,000 un­li­censed im­mi­grants in their state, and li­cens­ing and in­sur­ing half of them would save state drivers $46 mil­lion a year in pre­mium pay­ments.

How a new pol­icy would mesh with the fed­eral Real ID law re­mains to be seen.

Congress passed Real ID in 2005, but has re­peat­edly de­layed full im­ple­men­ta­tion as states have com­plained about the bur­den of com­pli­ance.

The cur­rent dead­line is Jan. 15, though Ms. Kephart said that likely will have to be pushed back again be­cause the Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment’s com­pli­ance of­fice has been cut to the bone, and it couldn’t even han­dle im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Ms. Kephart said states that have moved to grant li­censes see them­selves as trapped.

“I think you’re see­ing them con­cerned that the pres­i­dent is go­ing to smack their hands for not com­ply­ing with his view of what im­mi­gra­tion should look like,” she said. “I think they’re feel­ing like they don’t have a choice at this point. They’ve seen what hap­pens to states when they refuse, and they’re cer­tainly not go­ing to fight that in the driver’s li­censes realm.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

He sure seems happy: Illi­nois Se­nate Pres­i­dent John Culler­ton, left, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel ap­pear dur­ing a Nov. 20 news con­fer­ence in Chicago to an­nounce pro­posed leg­is­la­tion to grant driver’s li­censes to il­le­gal aliens.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.