(Repeats with no changes to text)
By Joanne von Alroth
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Dec 4 Illinois Republican
leaders endorsed a proposal to grant temporary drivers' licenses
to illegal immigrants on Tuesday, we eks after H i spanics voted
heavily for Democrats in national elections.
If approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature,
Illinois would be the most populous state to offer drivers'
licenses to illegal immigrants. Washington and New Mexico are
the only states tha t all ow illegal immigrants to obtain
lic enses. In U tah, they can get driv ing permits.
On Jan. 1, California will allow immigrants with federal
work permits to receive licenses.
At a press conference, Illinois state Senate Republican
leader Christine Radogno, and House Republican leader Tom Cross
endorsed the proposal, saying it would make the state's roads
safer for all drivers.
Radogno said Illinois can no longer ignore the presence of
illegal immigrants, who are driving without insurance.
"They are here and they are with us, some of them not even
of their own volition. But I guess we expect these people to
ride their bicycles to work," she said.
Since 2010, a handful of Republican-led states, notably
border state Arizona, passed laws cracking down on illegal
immigrants. But after th e November el ections, in which an
estimated 66 percent of Hispanics voted for Dem ocratic Pr esident
Barack Obama, both parties said they wanted to overhaul federal
In Washington, Republican senators from Texas and Arizona,
last month proposed what they called a compromise plan to offer
visas to children brought to the United States by their illegal
immigrant parents. The plan by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and
Jon Kyl is intended as a Republican alternative to the
Democrats' "Dream Act," which would grant citizenship to the
children of illegal immigrants.
Unlicensed, uninsured drivers are involved in almost 80,000
accidents in Illinois annually, resulting in $660 million in
damage, according to the Illinois Highway Safety Coalition.
Unlicensed immigrant drivers cost $64 million in damage claims.
The measure would ex tend to undocumented immigrants
Illinois' existing temporary visitor driver's license, used by
legal immigrants. The licenses are "visually distinct" from
ordinary licenses, with a purple background and the words "not
valid for identification" on the front, explained Lawrence
Benito, chief executive of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant
and Refugee Rights.
The Illinois Safer Families Coalition, an organization that
opposes giving drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants, ran an
ad this week saying Illinois politicians cannot be trusted to
administer such a program.
Coalition spokesman Bill Kelly cited Ricardo Guzman, a truck
driver who illegally obtained a driver's license in Illinois and
was involved in a 1994 crash that killed six people. It was
later discovered that Guzman had bribed an Illinois state
official to get the driver's license.
"I'm afraid that this bill, this poorly thought-through
bill, is going to result in similar tragedies," Kelly said.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the number of Latinos in
Illinois was more than 2 million, or nearly 16 percent of the
(Writing by Greg McCune and Stacey Joyce)