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updated: 12/4/2012 7:21 PM

Illinois Senate approves immigrant driver's licenses

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  • Special driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants would be marked "not valid for identification" to prevent use for buying guns or alcohol, boarding a plane or establishing other identification, supporters say.

      Special driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants would be marked "not valid for identification" to prevent use for buying guns or alcohol, boarding a plane or establishing other identification, supporters say.

  • The legislature adjourns this week and does not return until Jan. 3.

      The legislature adjourns this week and does not return until Jan. 3.
    File photo

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- Undocumented immigrants are a step closer to being allowed to have driver's licenses after the Illinois Senate approved the proposal Tuesday.

Senators voted 41-14 to approve, helped by support from top Republicans.

"It tends to be a very emotional issue," said Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont, who voted "yes."

Not all Republicans supported it, though.

State Sen. Dan Duffy, a Lake Barrington Republican, asked constituents on Facebook what they thought about an hour before the vote.

He got more than 300 responses, mostly from opponents, in that short time.

"I believe the law should be consistent and we should not reward somebody -- with a driver's license -- for breaking a federal law," Duffy posted. He voted "no."

State Sen. Chris Lauzen, an Aurora Republican, criticized his fellow lawmakers for not following federal laws.

"The national government should act first, which then paves the way for this action," he said.

The special visitors driver's licenses would be a different color than standard driver's licenses and would not be valid for use as identification to buy a gun, buy alcohol or board a plane.

Having a license would require the holder to take written and driving tests, a measure supporters say would make the roads safer for everyone.

"They're going to drive today. They're going to drive tomorrow," said state Sen. John Millner, a Carol Stream Republican and former police chief. "We need to provide the opportunity to obey the law."

Millner offered a change to the plan, which was accepted, that would create stiffer penalties for someone with a visitors driver's license who doesn't have auto insurance.

The issue was seen as politically touchy for Republicans, who lost a lot of ground to Democrats in Illinois last month at least partly because an increasing Latino population tends to vote for Democrats.

State Sen. Michael Noland, an Elgin Democrat, said the driver's license issue has been a big one in all of his campaigns.

"We have to make this accommodation to reality," Noland said of the plan he supported.

The plan now moves to the Illinois House for further consideration. Lawmakers there could take it up in January.

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