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Article updated: 11/30/2012 8:04 AM

Curran to lawmakers: Approve licenses for undocumented immigrants

By Mike Riopell

SPRINGFIELD -- Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran urged state lawmakers Thursday to allow undocumented immigrants to have driver's licenses as the Illinois Senate began moving the plan forward.

"They have to drive every day to support their families," Curran told a Senate committee.

The committee later moved the plan to the full Senate floor by a 12-2 vote.

Lawmakers could debate the measure again when they return to Springfield next week.

From the suburbs, Republican state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont voted "yes."

The controversial proposal would allow undocumented immigrants to have Illinois driver's licenses, with some caveats. The licenses would be good for three years, can't be used for official identification, and aren't valid for commercial driving. They only allow the holder to legally drive. Law enforcement and others would be able to tell the difference between a standard driver's license and a "temporary visitor" license because they'd be different colors.

Supporters estimate as many as 250,000 Illinois immigrants could qualify and they argue people with legal driver's licenses are less likely to get in accidents. Curran said that's particularly important to police departments, which have seen cuts across the state.

"You can ask anywhere in the state," he said. "There are drastic cuts in policing."

No one testified at the hearing to oppose the proposal.

Democrats could be pushing the measure so soon after an election because Republicans' support with Latinos is seen to be critical to future elections for the party, particularly in the suburbs.

For example, state Sen. Bill Brady, a Bloomington Republican and the 2010 GOP nominee for governor, supports the plan.

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