Published: January 18, 2013

In recent weeks, the State of Illinois passed legislation to allow the state’s population of roughly 250,000 undocumented drivers to obtain driver’s licenses. The bill, which is expected to be signed by Governor Quinn, will make Illinois the 4th state in the U.S. to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. The drivers licenses issued under this program confer no right or status, beyond authorizing the holder the right to drive.

The debate surrounding driver’s licenses for the undocumented pretty much mirrors the national debate over how our nation should address the overall issue of having 12 million people living in our nation without immigration status. Because there is no perfect solution to either problem and both sides of the argument express valid points, the ensuing conversations – if you can call them that -tend to get more than slightly heated. Even worse, the debate on these topics establishes fertile ground for politicians to rally their constituencies with enflamed emotions, leading to less common sense dialogue and more lecturing and talking/shouting at one another. The “law and order” folks (not intended to be an insult here) make more than valid points when they talk about the importance of respecting the rule of law, and how rewarding law breakers with goodies like driver’s licenses or green cards is a slap in the face to the legislative process and the citizens who voted in representatives to enact legislation.

But the folks on the other side of the debate also have it right. That these undocumented folks are going to remain in the U.S., or drive in Illinois, until and unless they are deported, is an undeniable reality. For more than the past two decades, successive administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have essentially “looked the other way” when it comes to enforcement of our immigration laws against the garden variety, noncriminal, immigration law breaker. The result is the accumulation of an undocumented population in the U.S. of 12 million +.  And no matter how strong the talk from the law and order folks, the vast majority of them do not have it in their hearts to advocate for a mass deportation initiative – the only true, effective remedy to the problem the law and order folks cite.

So, in other words, the undocumented population, including Illinois’ drivers, are not going anywhere unless forced to, especially as the winds of change are in motion with the enactment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and serious talk of a “path to legalization” for most of our undocumented from both sides of the aisle.

Drivers licenses for the undocumented, like a path to legalization, is an answer, and the right answer, to the undeniable societal condition we all know is at play, that the nation’s non-criminal, undocumented population is here to stay – until and unless they are moved out by force.

PUBLISHED January 18, 2013 – “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2013, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois