As a conservative Republican, being labeled a racist is in the cards if I dare express negative thoughts against illegal immigrants and those who support giving benefits to them. I therefore cringed when it was announced that Illinois may soon become the fifth and most populous state to grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. States permitting illegal immigrants to drive are Washington state and New Mexico; Utah allows driving permits.
Respect was lost for former Republican governor, Jim Edgar, and Republican controller, Judy Baar Topinka, when they joined Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in support of giving driver licenses to illegals. All stood in solidarity at a press conference with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) on November 20th in Chicago. The plan would allow illegal immigrants to get tested for licenses and buy insurance without facing deportation. Stated was that these licenses could not be used for other purposes, such as boarding a plane or voter identification.
According to Governor Edgar, GOP endorsement "bodes well for not only this piece of legislation, which is so important. It also bodes well for the whole system that that we see on an important issue like this, that Republicans and Democrats are coming together and trying to find common ground."
The sheriff of Lake County, a renegade Republican who as a devout Catholic "wears his religion on his sleeve" and is a believer in social justice for all, not only supports issuing illegal immigrants driver’s licenses, but also favors total amnesty despite his charge to uphold the rule of law in Lake County.
Sheriff Curran, in backing the proposed legislation, estimates that 28% of the inmates in the Lake County jail are illegal immigrants charged with not having valid licenses. Curran further believes that "since immigrants would be required to take written, vision, and in-car tests to quality, it would make the roads substantially safer for motorists. They would also be forced to purchase car insurance like other drivers."
Concerning Sheriff Curran's background: When Curran was first elected in Lake County as a Democrat in 2006 and then re-elected as a Republican in 2010, he had a fairly hard-line view on illegals residing in Lake County. He was the first sheriff in Illinois to request jail officers be given formal deportation powers, and he backed a program that helped to identify illegal immigrants arrested in the county. It was a biblical passage from the "Gospel of Matthew" that brought about Curran's change in position -- "I was a stranger and you welcomed me." -- prompted by discussions with Catholic leaders.
Recently Mark Curran's name became prominent beyond Lake County, when he announced his intentions to gather support through an exploratory committee in consideration of a serious bid for the position of state attorney general, now held by Lisa Madigan. Although admitting that while he is definitely at home within the Republican party, Sheriff Curran doesn't agree with the GOP on all issues.
Lake County conservative Republicans welcomed Curran as a Republican back in 2010 and reelected him based largely on his pro-life stance. It is highly questionable whether Lake County conservatives will greet with any enthusiasm Curran's potential announcement for state attorney general, nor will conservative Republicans throughout the state of Illinois. It is a given, however, that the Illinois Republican Establishment will back Curran all the way, as supporting Democratic-light candidates is why the Republican Party is now relegated to its back seat position here in Illinois.
And what about the claims made by Jim Edgar, Judy Barr Topinka, Mark Curran, and many others on both sides of the political spectrum, that the law would be good for public safety by allowing the quarter million of undocumented drivers on the road to get tested on their skills and buy insurance. It is estimated that unlicensed immigrant drivers cost $64 million in damage claims alone.
The idea of issuing undocumented immigrants temporary visitor driver’s licenses sounds innocent enough enough to those supporting the measure. The measure has already passed in the Senate 41- 14 and will soon be headed to the House.
Reported on Thursday, December 13, is that the bill to permit 250,000 illegal immigrants to receive driver's licenses could be in big trouble. Greg Sullivan, Executive Director of the Illinois Sheriff Association, originally approached by representatives from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to support the bill, claims that in the original draft the bill required applicants to submit fingerprints and tax identification number. These provisions were dropped from the current bill. Sullivan further noted that because of the bill's lack of safeguards, there are only a few Illinois sheriffs who have come out in support of SB 057. Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran was specifically mentioned as was Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. The Illinois Sheriff Association represents 102 Illinois sheriff from across the state.
Another fly in the ointment is how will the insurance part be enforced on the estimated 250,000 illegal immigrant drivers? SB947 doesn't really require proof of insurance upfront in order to obtain the state-issued license. Under the program, if a driver is caught without insurance during a routine traffic stop, the drive is guilty of only a "petty offense."
Despite laws in many states requiring drivers to maintain insurance, about one in seven motorists remain uninsured. Illinois has a mandatory insurance law, but that doesn’t mean all drivers are insured. Insurance policies can lapse or drivers enter Illinois from other states resulting in uninsured drivers. An estimated 15% of Illinois drivers are uninsured and are involved each year in almost 80,000 accidents causing $660 million in damage.
New Mexico's experience with a similar law reveals that there is no guarantee drivers will obtain insurance.
Why is it that Illinois legislators, on both sides of the aisle, are dead set on giving illegal aliens driver licenses, when there are thousands of uninsured drivers on the roads who are legal residents of Illinois? This smells of politics through and through.
Key state Republican leaders who support the legislation include Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), House GOP Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego), and Illinois comptroller Judy Barr Topinka.
Are Republican leaders and legislators really so naive as to believe that they can win the votes of Hispanics in Illinois by playing nicey nice to illegal immigrants?
Published initially at Illinois Review on Saturday, December 15.