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New Illinois license law creates mixed feelings among immigrants

Illinois lawmakers didn't waste time in the new legislative session, as they have already passed a measure that allows undocumented immigrants to legally obtain a temporary driver's license. Passed as a means to improve public safety on the roads, the new law also simplifies a lot of everyday tasks for those without permanent immigration status.

Although some are billing this as a victory for the Illinois immigrant community, others feel as though the bill sets the stage for deportation. As immigrants await an adjustment of status, registering with the government as "undocumented" seems to put many families in a precarious position.

There is some concern that a person could be randomly pulled over by police, since they are identified as not having a legal immigration status. At the same time, immigrants can get pulled over and hit charged for driving without a valid license, which, in turn, could raise the possibility of detention and deportation action.

It's clear that this is a very complicated issue for those directly impacted by the change in law. Obtaining a driver's license could be a good motivation and stepping stone to obtaining a change of status. As people have the opportunity to drive more freely, they are becoming more engaged in their communities and are opening the door to more economic opportunities, which are both reasons why people seek citizenship or a green card.

Despite some hesitation surrounding the implications of the new licensing law, there is still reason to view the change as a net positive. After obtaining a license, Chicago residents will be able to get to work and drop their children off at school without the overwhelming concern that they are not driving legally.

Source: CNN, "Illinois approves driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants," Gustavo Valdes and Catherine E. Shoichet, Jan. 8, 2013

Source: Rockford Register Star, "Some illegal immigrants fear going for Illinois driver's licenses," Jan. 2, 2013

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Godoy Olivieri, Ltd.-An immigration law firm

2021 Midwest Road
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Chicago, IL. 60608
312-445-0591 local
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