Chicago Sun-Times Editorial - Driver's certificates for illegals can make roads safer for all
Copyright by The Chicago Sun-Times
April 2, 2007
In passing a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's certificates, the Illinois House swallowed a bitter pill. The proposed law would allow as many as 250,000 undocumented Illinois residents to get a legal piece of identification even though they are subject to deportation under federal immigration laws. But the rationale for passing a state law that flies in the face of federal laws outweighs the mixed message it will send.
Illegal immigrants are on our highways and roads. Some of them have obtained fraudulent driver's licenses. Others are driving without a license. Many of these undocumented drivers are also without mandated liability insurance.
Proponents of the bill argue that it will make our roads safer because illegal immigrants would have to undergo driving tests and buy car insurance to be certified.
Opponents, however, are outraged by what can reasonably be seen as a political move to placate immigration advocates who are pushing for open borders.
We have long been in favor of federal immigration reform that would give guest workers a clearer path to legal immigration.
But Congress does not yet have the will to tackle the thorny immigration problem.
Meanwhile, immigration advocates are right in one respect: Undocumented immigrants no longer are underground. They are hiding in plain sight.
For instance, in the Chicago area, police officers are not allowed to ask suspects about their immigration status. The same is true for public schools, hospitals and other government agencies that provide social services.
Besides, giving undocumented immigrants a driver's certificate is another step in the direction that we are already heading.
Indeed, seven other states issue driver's licenses without asking for proof of citizenship.
And the proposed law offers an important benefit for all of us because Illinois officials expect to reduce the number of uninsured motorists.
If that goal is realized, the proposed law will be worth its bitter taste.
However, we caution supporters of this bill who may view it as a victory for those who support creeping immigration legalization.
Millions of immigrants have waited for the privileges of citizenship with great patience.
If states continue to hand over these rights in exchange for political gains, it will create a chaotic immigration system that may undermine America's security.
At best, the driver's certificate will treat one of the symptoms of illegal immigration.
Only carefully crafted federal legislation will provide a cure.