PILSEN — Residents and politicians, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, celebrated at La Casa in Pilsen Tuesday night after Illinois lawmakers passed a bill moving the state one step closer to providing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants.
The House voted 65-46 Tuesday in favor of the bill that would grant drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants who pass a drivers test, prove they have been residents of the state for a year and be willing to have their photo taken.
"This is a big deal," Ald. Danny Solis said at the conference. "If there weren't a lot of priests and nuns here, I'd probably say it's a big 'blank' deal."
Flanked by the mayor, members of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights as well as members of The Resurrection Project, Solis congratulated the packed house for its efforts in helping pass the bill.
"This is a precursor for the next big battle we're going to have in this country," Solis said, referring to comprehensive immigration reform. "I'm thinking of all the families I know who are undocumented — what an impact this will have."
If signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois will become the third state in the nation and the first state since 2003 to grant undocumented immigrants drivers licenses.
Quinn has said that he will sign the bill.
According to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, more than 250,000 unlicensed undocumented immigrants currently drive in Illinois, causing $64 million in damage claims each year.
Advocates say the passing of the bill will mean safer roads for everyone.
"From college diplomas to drivers licenses, we have become a model in setting the national agenda for the country," Emanuel said. "Today is a small step [and] a significant change."