Immigrant licenses top 85,000

SPRINGFIELD — More than 85,000 immigrants obtained special temporary driver’s licenses last year as part of a landmark new state program.

The 2014 tally marks the first full year of the program, which allows undocumented foreigners to obtain a license that is good for three years.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, whose office administers the program, said the process appears to be working well.

“He thinks the program has been very successful,” spokesman Henry Haupt said.

But some groups think the numbers fall short of an earlier goal of getting 100,000 people signed up.

“I think it shows it’s not nearly enough,” said Ruth Lopez, implementation director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

In 2013, Illinois came the 10th state to give immigrants a legal path to driving. Since then, other states, including California, have started similar programs.

Although Republicans in the House and Senate largely rejected the proposal, it did draw some GOP support from Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont and state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington.

The new law makes the licenses available to immigrants who can prove they have lived in Illinois for a year. Immigrants make appointments to go to one of a limited number of Secretary of State offices to start the process to get the license.

When the program began, supporters said as many as 500,000 people might qualify for the licenses. Since the program began in late 2013, Haupt said, nearly 190,000 people have scheduled appointments. A total of 85,121 licenses have been issued.

Lopez said advocates are working with White’s office to see if there are ways to streamline the process. The groups also are looking at how things are working in other states.

In Illinois, the licenses are the same as those issued to diplomats, relatives of overseas businessmen, artists and athletes who live temporarily in the United States without a Social Security number.

They permit the user only to drive and are not valid as an identification document.

The $30 licenses feature a purple border rather than a red border used for regular licenses.

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Immigrant licenses top 85,000
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