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Rationale for Illinois Driver’s License Bill Discredited by Recent Study

author Published by Chris Chmielenski

The leaders of the Illinois Legislature are hoping to pass legislation that would allow illegal aliens to get a driver’s license. In support of that effort, the senate’s Assistant Republican Leader and a high-profile sheriff wrote an op-ed for a suburban Chicago newspaper, the Daily Herald, on Wednesday. State Sen. Bill Brady and Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran argued that the legislation would reduce the costs of uninsured claims. But a recent study by the Insurance Research Council squashes that argument.

In the op-ed, Sen. Brady and Sheriff Curran try to calm any concerns over how the driver’s license could be used by illegal aliens by stating that the license can’t be used as “identification to register to vote, board an airplane or purchase a firearm.” They focus instead on the savings that should be passed on to currently insured drivers in the Land of Lincoln:

Untested, uninsured immigrants are driving today, and 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, for instance, 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.– Sen. Brady and Sheriff Curran, Daily Herald, January 3, 2013

Sen. Brady, who also serves as the Ranking GOP Member of the state legislature’s insurance committee, and Sheriff Curran base their entire rationale for the legislation on uninsured immigrant drivers. They assume that by passing the legislation illegal aliens would run out and purchase auto insurance.

But the Insurance Research Council found a different result in New Mexico after the state passed similar legislation in 2003. Comparing IRC research in New Mexico from 2000 and then again in 2008, the number of uninsured motorists in New Mexico had actually RISEN from 26.3% in 2000 to 29.5% in 2008. In 2009, the number dipped a bit to 25.7%, but that’s a negligible decrease from the 2000 benchmark.

The research led J. Tim Query, a Ph.D. and Associate Professor of Risk Management and Insurance at New Mexico State University to say:

If the policy is motivated by a lowering of uninsured motorists or decreasing accidents, I think it has had an insignificant effect.– J. Tim Query, Associate Professor at New Mexico State University 

Facts are facts; allowing illegal aliens to get a driver’s license in New Mexico has done nothing to reduce the number of uninsured motorists in the state, and there’s nothing to suggest things would be different in Illinois despite the fact that the bill under consideration invalidates the driver’s licenses of illegal aliens without insurance. New Mexico also has penalties for failing to purchase insurance.

Furthermore, in recent weeks, the Illinois Sheriffs Association has grown weary of the bill. The group’s Executive Director Greg Sullivan said initial drafts of the bill included requirements for illegal aliens to submit fingerprints and tax identification numbers, but those provisions have been dropped.

It comes down to: how do we prove identity? We don’t want to have a system that issues state driver’s licenses to felons and criminals. Fingerprints help us prevent that. From a public perspective, the undocumented should be paying for the privilege of driving, using our roads, maintaining our signs, and supporting the traffic court system with their taxes too.– Greg Sullivan, Illinois Sheriffs Association 

On a separate note, Sheriff Curran’s pro-illegal-alien sympathies go beyond the issue of driver’s licenses. He’s been a vocal opponent of the Obama Administration’s Secure Communities program that notifies federal immigration officers when an illegal alien has been booked in a local jail. This program has resulted in what the Administration boasts is a “record number of deportations.” But Sheriff Curran said during a PBS interview:

What makes me uncomfortable about Secure Communities is the fact that we need to be talking about comprehensive immigration reform, and we need to be doing so unabashedly.– Sheriff Mark Curran, PBS Frontline 

New unemployment numbers are out today, and there’s no improvement for unemployed Americans who would be most likely to compete with amnestied illegal aliens for jobs. Instead of talking about “comprehensive immigration reform” and giving rewards like driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, shouldn’t we be talking about ways to free up the 7 million non-agricultural jobs held by illegal aliens to help the 20 million Americans who can’t find one?

CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA

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