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Illinois governor signs bill allowing illegal immigrant driver's licenses

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn [official website] signed a bill [SB 0957 text, PDF] on Sunday that will permit immigrants in the country illegally to obtain temporary driver's licenses if they can provide proof of one-year state residence and an unexpired passport from their country of citizenship or a valid unexpired consular identification document and a photograph. The bill will allow potential licensees to take both written and driving tests and would require them to have proof of auto insurance, which proponents advocate is a public safety measure. The licenses will last for three years and cannot be used for the purchase of firearms, to vote or to board a plane. The Illinois secretary of state's office estimates it will begin issuing licenses [Chicago Tribune report] in about 10 months. Critics argued that the process is open to abuse, but Quinn praised the bipartisanship effort [press release] to pass the bill and stated that it would save lives and money by helping to ensure that immigrant motorists had passed a driving safety test.

The Illinois House approved the bill [JURIST report] in early January after it was approved by the Senate last December. California Governor Jerry Brown signed [JURIST report] a similar bill in October, which directed California's Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver's licenses to people who do not have a social security number but can prove they are authorized to be in the US under federal law. In contrast, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer [official website] issued an executive order [JURIST report] in August that instructs state agencies not to provide driver's licenses and other public benefits to undocumented immigrants who have gained the right to work under the new federal program known as Deferred Action [DHS memorandum; JURIST report]. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] has filed a lawsuit challenging the order [JURIST report].

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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