But who is leading the charge to pass the bill?
Even as the Illinois legislature fails to find a solution to its looming fiscal crisis in its pension system, it found time to take a step toward giving illegal immigrants the right to have a driver’s license legally. Last week, the Illinois Senate approved a measure that would give almost all of the estimated 500,000 (estimated provided by Steve Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies in table 36) illegal aliens living in the State of Illinois the right to carry a driver’s license. The measure now moves to the Illinois House where it also enjoys support and eventually to Governor Pat Quinn, who is also in favor of this measure.
Not surprisingly, Illinois Democrats championed this measure. The top Democrat, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, sponsored the measure.
What was surprising was that the measure found equal fervor in Republican circles. The Republican Minority Leader, Christine Radogno, is also behind the measure. A call was left unreturned with Radogno’s office from Front Page Magazine, but Radogno gave this supportive statement to the Chicago Tribune.
“We should pull the trigger," Radogno said to the Tribune.
The measure was favored especially in the Chicago Land area. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued this statement.
“I strongly support state legislation that will allow every Chicagoan, regardless of legal status, to enjoy the rights and responsibilities that come with a driver’s license,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I commend Senate President John Cullerton for his leadership to introduce legislation during the 2012 veto session to require all Illinois drivers, including undocumented drivers, to get trained, licensed and insured. I will be a strong advocate for this bill as we work to make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the country.”
In fact, on November 20, 2012, a press conference was held on Chicago’s South Side. At this press conference, the Chicago-area’s political elites, along with some of the nation’s most radical leftist immigration organizations, got together in support of the measure.
The organizer of this press conference was the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). The ICIRR has been behind a string of radical immigrant reforms that have gone as far as freeing criminal illegal aliens.
In September 2011, the ICIRR spearheaded an effort for Cook County to cease cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), on ICE detainers. ICE detainers are holds made by ICE on municipal prisoners it wants held because they’ve also possibly violated immigration laws.
Because of that law, Saul Chavez, an illegal alien accused of killing a pedestrian crossing the street because he was heavily intoxicated while driving a car, was allowed to be released rather than handed over to ICE. Chavez has since gone on the run and is presumed to be in Mexico.
Along with the ICIRR, there were representatives of the Highway Safety Coalition. This bill was being championed as a measure to improve road safety.
In an interview for this article, the press aide for John Cullerton, Ron Holmes, said this bill was meant to improve road safety.
“There’s a quarter of a million [Cullerton’s estimate of the number of illegal aliens in Illinois] drivers on the road that are undocumented. We don’t know if they’re up to standards in road safety.”
The Cook County Board President (the County that includes Chicago) Toni Preckwinkle was also in attendance at this conference. Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn were also in attendance.
Front Page Magazine spoke to one outspoken opponent, Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson. Sangamon is a County in the South Central portion of the State of Illinois. It includes the State’s Capitol, Springfield, and it’s about a three and a half hour drive from Chicago. While the area that surrounds Chicago supports this measure, most of the rest of the state does not.
Williamson was asked to rebut the opposition’s most widely used arguments. First, Williamson was asked to respond to the idea that by giving these folks driver’s licenses police could focus on more significant crimes.
“What could be more serious than getting being in the country illegally?” asked Williamson rhetorically in response.
Williamson was also asked to respond to the idea that by giving these folks driver’s licenses that this would be a step in fostering better relationships between the police and the community. That way the community would be more apt to help in other criminal investigations.
“By allowing somebody to be here illegally, you’re going to get them to snitch more,” Williamson mused mockingly.
To be fair, Front Page Magazine also asked the other side to respond. In response to the idea that their side is ignoring illegal immigration in favor of highway safety, Holmes again reiterated the bill was not about illegal immigration but strictly about highway safety.
Illinois is also facing a pension crisis that the Illinois Policy Institute estimates leaves the state with about $200 billion in unfunded liabilities. Critics have argued that this measure is being taken up even as pension reform is being ignored.
Holmes pointed out that President Cullerton passed a bill out of the Senate, SB 1447, that would solve the looming pension crisis in the state. The Senate is now waiting on the House to act and hopes to see some action early next year. As such, the Senate was not using up resources that could be used to move along pension reform, Holmes argued.
Nationally, anti-illegal immigration groups are finding it difficult to stop these affronts because they are fighting multiple fronts. Front Page Magazine spoke with William Gheen, President of Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee (ALIPAC). Gheen said that ALIPAC has volunteers on the ground in Illinois making calls and knocking on doors but that his organization can’t pull their full resources into the matter.
That’s because, Gheen said, there are three states currently working on legislation that would give illegal immigrants benefits, including Illinois. The other two, said Gheen, are Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
In Rhode Island, Gheen said that he fears that Independent Governor Lincoln Chafee, in collusion with a number of radical leftist pro-illegal immigration groups, may give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens by Governor’s decree.
In Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick has introduced a proposal to provide in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
Gheen said his organization is forced to put resources into each state making the task of fighting each one that much more difficult because their resources are diluted.
Already, New Mexico and the State of Washington have passed legislation giving illegal aliens the right to get a driver’s license.
Even as the issue of immigration reform is likely to come up on the national level, it’s clear, based on this article, that immigration watchers should pay attention to reforms on the state level as well.
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