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Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul
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August 23, 2019


Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul, along with a coalition of six attorneys general, filed an amicus brief defending New York’s Green Light Law, which authorizes driving credentials for residents without regard to their federal immigration status.

The brief, filed in federal district court for the Western District of New York, argues that issuing and regulating personal driving credentials is a traditional and effective exercise of states’ constitutionally protected power to promote residents’ safety and health.

“This law is not only constitutional, but necessary for improving road safety for all residents,” Raoul said. “Conditioning driving privileges on immigration status does nothing but put the safety of more drivers at risk in yet another attempt to take rights away from immigrants.”

By passing the Green Light Law in June, New York became the fifteenth state or territory to authorize driver’s licenses for immigrants. When the law takes effect in December, approximately 110 million U.S. residents – a third of the nation’s population – will benefit from living in a state that grants driving privileges based on relevant criteria such as passing a driving test, proving identity, paying a fee, and obtaining proper insurance – rather than immigration status.

In July, Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns filed a federal lawsuit advancing the claim that federal immigration law overrides state authority to issue driver’s licenses without reference to immigration status.

In the brief, Raoul and the coalition argue that the federal government has not preempted state regulation of driving privileges, which has been the exclusive prerogative of the states since the first driver’s license law was passed in the U.S. in 1903. Data shows that states and their residents are safer and healthier when driver’s licenses are granted to residents – regardless of their immigration status – who can prove their identity, pass tests and produce insurance.

Under Illinois law, foreign-born individuals living in Illinois may obtain a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL). TVDLs are available to undocumented immigrants and visa holders who are unable to obtain social security numbers. To be eligible for a TVDL, an applicant must pass vision, written, and road exams and provide proof of identity, residency, and insurance. A TVDL is not valid to show identification and cannot be used to board a plane, enter federal buildings, or for any other official purpose.

In addition to Illinois and New York, thirteen other states and territories including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Puerto Rico, Utah, Vermont and Washington have enacted laws that grant driving privileges based solely on relevant criteria.

Joining Raoul in filing the amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Nevada, and Washington.


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