This nation is a melting pot of immigrants, both legal and not. Our state is no different.
We celebrate the ethnic diversity of our population and welcome those who come to this country and pursue citizenship, and whose work and effort have helped make this country great.
We also have a continuing concern with the numbers of immigrants in this country who are here without any legal authority. Many of them have come to America from our southern neighbor seeking work and a better life for their families. Another large percentage of the undocumented immigrants came to our country legally from probably every country on earth and have overstayed their visas.
The question of immigration reform is an emotional one, and one in which the federal government must play the lead role. It is a national concern, and yet it is also an issue in the 50 states individually.
As a nation, we must secure our borders, and we must provide a wider door to citizenship to those who come to our country legally. As a state, we must also recognize the impact of an estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrant drivers on Illinois’ streets and highways and on the cost of car insurance to family budgets.
There is a cost to society when we have uninsured, untrained, untested, drivers. With the recent legislation to extend the current Illinois temporary visitors driver’s licenses to the undocumented immigration population, Illinois is offering another response to the lack of action from the federal government over the last decade or more.
It doesn’t allow the license holder to use that license as identification to register to vote, to board an airplane or to purchase a firearm. It requires undocumented immigrants to prove their identity, be tested and purchase insurance to drive legally on our streets and highways.
As a legislator, I’ve supported other Illinois responses to what is a national immigration question. I have opposed this specific kind of legislation in the past. Because of agreement with the statutory language I proposed that would prevent the use of the temporary visitors driver’s licenses for identification, I believe this specific bill is in the best interests of Illinois citizens.
Untested, uninsured immigrants are driving today. Those drivers cost $64 million annually in uninsured damage claims that other policy holders must cover. In 2011, 42 percent of all fatal crashes in Illinois involved an unlicensed driver. In Lake County, 28 percent of all motorists booked for traffic offenses in the last year were undocumented immigrants who could not get licenses, burdening our public safety system.
Our goal is not to encourage more illegal immigration to Illinois. Instead, it is to promote safe driving and to unburden licensed motorists from the financial cost to them resulting from a collision with an uninsured motorist.
Testing, training, licensing and insuring undocumented immigrants will lead to improved highway safety, save lives and ultimately lower vehicle insurance rates for Illinois motorists.
State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, represents the 44th District, including parts of Sangamon County, in the Illinois Senate. Mark Curran is the Sheriff of Lake County.