Driving Schools Flooded with Calls About Immigrant Driver's Licenses
CHICAGO — Illinois' new law allowing undocumented immigrants to get temporary driver's licenses has phones ringing off the hook at driving schools in neighborhoods with large immigrant populations.
But there's lingering confusion about what is required of potential new drivers.
Willie Khran, co-owner at the Chicago Driving School at 1856 W. 47th St., said he’s received dozens of inquiries since the bill was signed by Gov. Pat Quinn Sunday. But Khran said it's unclear what he should tell those calling.
"We have received no information at all," he said. "It’s in the Secretary of State’s hands. Everything depends on them."
Khran said he doesn’t understand why the bill won't go into effect for another 10 months.
“I don’t think it should take that long," he said. "It doesn’t make sense.”
Victoria Gonzalez, owner of Amigo Driving School, 5104 W. Fullerton Ave., said she wasn't clear on what identification applicants need. In the past, any applicant needed a state-issued identification card, and she repeated that when asked what it would take to get a license this week.
"We don’t know the rules," Gonzalez said. "We have to wait."
Henry Haupt, spokesman for the Illinois Secretary of State Office, said temporary license applicants will need: a letter stating they are ineligible for a Social Security card, a valid passport or consular ID card and at least two documents that prove one year of residency in Illinois.
The reason the law won't go into effect until Oct. 1, according to an Illinois government statement explaining the law, is "to ensure adequate time for responsible implementation." The statement did not elaborate.
Haupt stressed that the temporary licenses will not be a valid form of identification and will look very different from a regular driver's license or state identification card.
One of the problems adding to the confusion, said Mony Ruiz-Velasco, director of legal affairs at the National Immigrant Justice Center, 208 S. LaSalle St., is uncertainty over which kind of license eligible immigrants should apply for.
In June, President Barack Obama signed a memo that would curb deportation of undocumented youth.
The memo — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — applies to young people who came into the country before the age of 16, are currently under age 31, and who have not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor.
These young people would be allowed to legally stay in the U.S. for two years and would be able to apply for a Social Security number in order to work. These immigrants would be eligible for a standard license and would not be affected by the new Illinois law.
Ruiz-Velasco said her office recently has seen a spike in phone calls regarding the newer temporary drivers licenses, even though many are actually eligible for a standard license under the DACA program, she said.
“We just want to make sure people are applying for the right kind of driver's license,” she said. “There’s many people who are confused about that.”
While those looking to obtain a temporary driver's license will have to wait until Oct. 1, younger immigrants eligible under DACA can apply now, she said.
For those who need the temporary licenses, there is plenty of time to brush up on their skills.
At Chicago Driving School, it costs $300 to learn to drive, which includes eight hours of driving lessons over four days.