What a coincidence: Illinois also automatically registers people to vote when they apply for a driver’s license – nothing bad could possibly come of this, right?
Via The Chicago Tribune:
The first driver’s licenses for immigrants living in Illinois illegally will be issued in December, with officials estimating that as many as 500,000 people could eventually apply for the special permits.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office announced Tuesday that it will begin accepting applications Dec. 3 on a limited basis. The expected high demand means applicants must schedule an appointment to visit one of four designated offices to complete the tests and paperwork.
Appointments may be scheduled by calling 855-236-1155 or visiting cyberdriveillinois.com. Walk-ins will not be served, officials said. In addition to English, services will provided in Spanish, Polish, Mandarin Chinese and Korean. An additional 21 offices will begin scheduling appointments in January.
The launch of the program comes almost a year after Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law creating the specialized license, officially known as the temporary visitor driver’s license. Unlike standard driver’s licenses, they cannot be used as a form of identification for purposes such as boarding a plane, voting or buying a gun.
Supporters say the change will make Illinois roads safer because immigrants will undergo driver’s tests and be required to have insurance for the license to be valid.
Critics fear fraud and abuse, with some lawmakers saying immigrants living here illegally should be fingerprinted to qualify. Immigrant rights organizations fought back on that idea, arguing that it would deter participation among a population that often is distrustful of law enforcement and other government agencies.
To qualify, applicants must prove they have lived in Illinois for a least a year and show they are ineligible for a Social Security card. Documents that will be accepted include a copy of a lease, utility bills and a valid passport or consular identification card.
Drivers also must pass vision, written and road tests and pay a $30 fee. Licenses will not be issued on the spot, officials said, but only after the state can verify application information and perform a facial recognition search against other databases. That process could take 15 to 20 business days.
The licenses will be valid for three years, one less than standard licenses. After that, a person would have to reapply.
Officials estimate that they will be able to process about 100,000 applications a year, which would generate about $3 million annually to run the program. White said his office has spent about $1 million to get the program off the ground, including hiring translators. White said that will lead to “sacrifices” in other areas but contended the expense is worth it.
“Before the implementation of this law, individuals would have an automobile crash and they would leave the car and they would run,” White said. “Now they don’t have to run because now they can stand and say to the officer, tell their story of how the accident occurred, show their driver’s license, show their registration card.”
White said the information collected during the application process will not be shared with federal immigration officials but that some data may be given to police during the course of an investigation or if documents are subpoenaed.
For those who got a license using fraudulent information but want to apply under the new system, officials warn that the best course of action is for drivers to report themselves to the secretary of state’s office. People who self-report wrongdoing would have their license suspended for one year but could regain driving privileges. If a driver does not come forward and fraud is detected, he or she will be denied a license under the program, officials said.
Program manger Lisa Grau said such cases will be handled internally by fraud investigators unless other criminal activity such as identify theft or credit card fraud is discovered, at which point the case would be forwarded to the proper law enforcement agency.
“This program is not meant to be a ‘gotcha,'” Grau said. “We’re doing this to try to improve road safety and give people the chance to go to work and to school.”
Meanwhile, officials are warning potential new drivers to be smart consumers when it comes to buying the required insurance. They acknowledged that immigrant drivers will likely face higher insurance premiums because of a lack of official driving history.