State rolls dice on license issue
Immigrants who are in this country illegally will soon be driving legally |on Illinois highways.
The state of Illinois is about to embark on an experiment that will draw national attention.
Starting Dec. 3, Secretary of State Jesse White's office will begin issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, and it's estimated that the number of applicants could reach the astounding figure of 500,000.
The application process will be cumbersome, to the point that individuals will have to make appointments to visit one of the four offices established for the purpose of administering tests and filling out the appropriate paperwork.
Translators who speak a variety of languages will be available, but most of those who will be applying are Spanish-speakers, particularly Mexicans.
White's implementation of this law passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Pat Quinn requires a unique approach.
Given that the applicants will be admitted violators of American law, the Legislature decreed that the licenses that are issued cannot be used for identification purposes for buying a gun, boarding a plane or voting. (Apparently non-citizens, who are not qualified to vote in elections in this country, will have to come up with other identification they can use to cast illegal ballots in our elections.)
These kinds of rules demonstrate the complexity and inconsistency of simultaneously ignoring and accommodating illegal behavior. Such is the schizophrenic approach this country takes to the problem of illegal immigration.
Despite the inconsistencies, however, this state experiment could prove useful in dealing with the millions of illegal immigrants in this country.
In an effort to win public support for this law, supporters claimed that licenses for illegals are necessary as a public-safety measure. They assert that road safety will be improved because these new motorists will be required to pass driving tests.
That's fine, as far as it goes. But assuming some don't pass their driving tests, does anyone think they won't continue to drive without a license in the future just as they have done in the past? That's why the argument that this is about public safety rings hollow.
Further, supporters of the law assert that public safety will get a boost because these newly licensed drivers will rush to buy car insurance, a move that would be a step in the right direction if it happens. The problem, of course, is that the state has a hard time enforcing mandatory insurance laws for current drivers.
State officials seem to be operating on the mistaken theory that those who are licensed automatically comply with the mandatory insurance law. They know better.
Further, car insurance can be expensive, and it may be especially so for those in this new category of low-income drivers. That raises the same problem of expecting compliance with the law from people who already have shown their disdain for the law.
Obviously, we are skeptical that issuing driver's licenses to immigrants who are in this country illegally is the panacea its promoters claim. However, the state has the opportunity to prove the skeptics wrong, and it's our hope it does so. But if this experiment fails, the state should be prepared to take corrective action.