Supporters of granting illegal immigrants drivers licenses rally at the Illinois State Capitol, Jan. 7, 2013.
Seth Perlman/AP

Drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants


Fed up with waiting for Congress, Illinois became the latest state to try and better integrate its own undocumented immigrant community by issuing them drivers licenses. 

Thanks to a bill passed earlier this year, state DMVs will now offer temporary licenses to residents regardless of immigration status. Some 25,000 undocumented immigrants are expected to take advantage of the new law, according to the Chicago Tribune

Proponents backed the move as a public safety measure, ensuring that more immigrants receive proper certification before driving and that they purchase auto insurance. The IDs will be specially marked to indicate they can be used only in limited circumstances as identification, but they will look identical to licenses used by legal immigrants. 

Illinois is the largest state so far to offer licenses, but that will change soon as California passed a law in October allowing officials to issue issue drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. The policy has gained significant momentum in 2013, in part due to rising expectations early in the year that immigration reform might pass soon. Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray signed a drivers license bill last month and nearby Maryland recently started issuing them as well. They joined states like Nevada, Washington, and New Mexico who have already taken the same steps. Many others, like North Carolina, have taken more limited measures offering licenses to young undocumented immigrants who have been granted temporary protection under the White House’s Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program.