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Immigrant Groups Divided Over Temporary Driver’s License Plan

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A new Illinois law would allow undocumented immigrants to get a Temporary Visitor Driver's License like this one, but some immigrant groups worry that, because the license has a different color than standard licenses, police would immediately know a person with such a license is in the U.S. illegally. (Photo courtesy Illinois Secretary of State)

A new Illinois law would allow undocumented immigrants to get a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License like this one, but some immigrant groups worry that, because the license has a different color than standard licenses, police would immediately know a person with such a license is in the U.S. illegally. (Photo courtesy Illinois Secretary of State)

Jim Williams (CBS) Jim Williams
Jim Williams, a native Chicagoan, co-anchors the CBS 2 Chicago Wee...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s a hot button issue: should undocumented immigrants be allowed to get driver’s licenses? Even leaders in Chicago’s Latino community are divided on a measure that would grant undocumented immigrants temporary licenses.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams found both sides – and their passionate pleas – gathered at the Thompson Center on Wednesday.

21:33 “we are worried about racial profiling.”

A group called Alliance for Immigrant Rights expressed their concern about possible racial profiling in a letter to Gov. Pat Quinn.

A measure approved by the Illinois Senate would allow undocumented immigrants to take advantage of the state’s Temporary Visitor Driver’s License program.

But the Alliance insisted the special driver’s license issued by that program – with a different color than standard licenses – would immediately tell police the driver is an undocumented immigrant.

“What’s going to happen to that individual and their families when they’re pulled over? There’s a potential for harassment,” said the Alliance’s Guillermo Gomez.

But many other Latino organizations have worked for a decade to get driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in Illinois.

Maria Pesqueira, with Ujeres Latinas En Accion, said many immigrants are already being harassed.

“If you don’t have a driver’s license, your car is towed. … Tell me you’re not already being targeted,” she said.

She said, if undocumented immigrants were allowed to have licenses, “what would happen is that they would be stopped, they would have a driver’s license to show, their car would be not be towed, they can move forward.”

Proponents of the plan said the roads would be safer, because anyone getting the special license would have to pass all driving tests.

Proponents also have said the current measure is the only way to get lawmakers to sign off on the plan.

But Gomez said, “I think we could have compromise with a full and regular driver’s license.”

The Illinois Senate has approved the special driver’s license, and the proposal has moved to the House, which is expected to vote next month. Gov. Pat Quinn supports the plan.

Some lawmakers, however, have said undocumented immigrants should not have any kind of driver’s license, because it would essentially legitimize their illegal status.

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