Illinois moved one step closer Thursday to allowing undocumented drivers to apply for driver's licenses.
An estimated 250,000 undocumented Illinoisans could benefit directly from the proposal, which cleared the state Senate Executive Committee in a 12-2 vote and next heads to the state's full Senate for consideration next week, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The proposal, which has already won bipartisan support, would require all the state's drivers to register for driver's licenses, plus insurance, regardless of their immigration status. Undocumented drivers would apply for licenses under the state's existing Temporary Visitor Driver License program.
Proponents of the bill say its passage would make the state's roads safer. According to Senate President John Cullerton (D), the bill's chief sponsor, unlicensed drivers are involved in 42 percent of all fatal crashes statewide. Undocumented immigrant drivers are not currently able to register for either driver's licenses or insurance.
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran testified Wednesday that understaffed law enforcement agencies would benefit from the bill's passage as they "would much rather go after the bad guys and not just put people in jail for trying to get to work and school," according to the Associated Press.
Conservative state Sen. Bill Brady this week became one of the most prominent Republican lawmakers to back the bill, which he urged to be amended to specifically outline that the licenses cannot be used for identification purposes, the Capitol Fax blog notes. Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno also supports the proposal.
Still, not everyone is on board. State Sen. Dale Righter (R) told CBS Chicago that he feels a driver's license is a privilege that undocumented Illinoisans do not deserve.
Both Washington state and New Mexico require undocumented drivers to get licenses. Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill allowing some of the state's undocumented immigrants -- those eligible for work permits under a new Obama administration policy -- to apply for licenses.