DeKALB – More than 130 undocumented immigrants have secured Illinois driver's licenses in DeKalb County, according to recent figures from the Illinois Secretary of State's office.
Undocumented immigrants became eligible to receive drivers licenses in December when the program rolled out at 36 facilities across Illinois. The DeKalb office started accepting appointments on Jan. 16 and has since issued 134 licenses, Secretary of State's Office spokesman Henry Haupt said.
Across the state, 9,300 temporary visitors driver's licenses have been issued.
Illinois was one of 10 states in 2013 to implement laws allowing undocumented immigrants to receive licenses. Illinois is the largest state to enact the law.
Ivonne Uquillas, a junior at Northern Illinois University and student coordinator for the DREAM Action Center, said the driver's licenses are important to undocumented students and parents she knows.
“Now parents are going to be able to drive to work and take their kids to school without fear of getting stopped and with that possibly deported,” Uquillas said. “It creates a lot of security and safety.”
The $30 licenses have a purple border rather than the red border on standard Illinois licenses. They are only valid in Illinois, and are valid for three years.
Over the next 90 days, 676 appointments are scheduled at the DeKalb office, Haupt said.
Applicants are required to schedule an appointment by phone or through the Secretary of State's website. During appointments, applicants take a vision, written and road exam. They are required to show identification as well as proof of insurance and that they have lived in Illinois for at least one year.
Open appointments at the DeKalb facilities are scarce, said American Family Insurance agent Kim Barrios. Barrios helps undocumented immigrants interested in obtaining their license by trying to set up appointments and shepherding them through the insurance process.
She's scheduled about 20 appointments, which stretch out until June.
“They will pay to have this privilege to drive and be safe,” Barrios said. “And I think this will be a good thing for all of my customers, because it will mean less hit-and-run accidents. I think the big fear was getting caught by the police and taken to jail."
Driving without a valid driver's license is a jailable offense for which the DeKalb County Sheriff's police cited 206 people in 2013, according to Chief Deputy Gary Dumdie. He said most of those issued were to people who had never had a drivers license, although he did not know how many were undocumented immigrants.
He agreed issuing licenses to proficient drivers would cut down on the number of citations the department issued as well as improve overall safety of the roads.
“If they're capable of driving and they pass a test, it's a good thing,” Dumdie said.