Opinion & Commentary
Governor Quinn downplays controversial bill for undocumented residents
I was there but not too surprised when Gov. Pat Quinn spoke in Spanish phrases to the more than 300 Hispanics who gathered at the Latino Institute to support his symbolic early signing of a new state law that would grant drivers licenses to undocumented residents, mainly of Hispanic heritage.
Quinn not only repeated such phrases as “Si se puede!” (Yes we can!) in Spanish, but he also added a Spanish inflection when introducing Hispanic speakers like the co-sponsor of the bill State Rep. Ed Acevedo and supporter Lisa Hernandez.
The way he was going on and on about how important this bill is, you would have thought that Gov. Quinn would have showcased the bill signing, which grants licenses to undocumented residents as long as they also obtain automobile insurance.
This morning I received Quinn’s official newsletter which summarized the significant things he has done in office. They included items from the past month of January, such as: celebrating one year of tax relief; a school safety summit he hosted; elementary school programs requiring sexual abuse education and more.
And then there was one he titled “traffic safety.”
Traffic safety sounded interesting. And when I read it, I realized it was the event I attended where he repeatedly told the audience that “undocumented residents” would have a chance to apply for drivers licenses in Illinois.
Gov. Quinn is not unlike most other politicians who claim they are doing something good.
They are all “politically correct” in their own ways.
Although the Illinois Committee for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) hosted the event at the Latino Institute at 25th and Western Avenue and claimed to speak for all of the region’s Hispanics, many Hispanics were left out of the “celebration,” even though those Hispanics did much to pass the bill.
Quinn was happy to jump up and down and garble his Spanish for an audience of supporters of the bill, but he knows that the bill is not that popular among non-Hispanic residents who fear it is a backdoor way to embrace undocumented residents, which critics refer to disparagingly as “illegal aliens.”
So he needs to play the bill down because he knows it will become a major issue in the upcoming election when he will be challenged by Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford who is expected to challenge him, if in fact Quinn manages to survive as a candidate. There is a good chance that Lisa Madigan, the accomplished Illinois Attorney General will run for Governor, too. Madigan is the “Hillary Clinton” of Illinois politics. Very popular and someone many voters want to lead our state government.
The politics of issues is so hypocritical. Politicians like Quinn want it both ways. They want the credit where the credit will benefit them, but they don’t want what they do to annoy others who may not like it.
The ICIRR is much like that. I served on the ICIRR board as an American Arab but eventually left when I realized that the ICIRR, when I was on the board, was not as much interested in helping all immigrants as they were in flexing their political muscle in very specific political ways.
In other words, their politics, at the time, meant more than embracing principle across the board. I don’t know that much about the current board. Maybe they have changed. Maybe they haven’t changed. The issue, though, is that I think the political animal can’t really change. Politicians can’t change their stripes. They are ALL driven by an inherent drive to promote themselves and make themselves look good.
And it doesn’t matter what party they are from. Those who claim to be progressive and liberal often are as conservative and dictatorial an hypocritical as are those that they often criticize is unethically.
Like at the event at the Latino Institute when some organizers and supporters of U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez – who 20 years ago I worked with as a campaign adviser to get him elected to Congress – who are engaged in a fight to be the self-appointed spokespeople for the Hispanic community.
They did everything they could to prevent State Sen. Martin Sandoval and his allies including the mayors of two of the towns that have the largest Hispanic populations outside of Chicago, the Town of Cicero’s President Larry Dominick, who is one of my eight clients, and Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico.
Suddenly the effort to bring drivers licenses to undocumented residents has become a battering ram for political gain.
Why should Governor Quinn be any different, I guess, in manipulating the issue for his own political benefit when the people he is surrounding himself with play politics with ethics and principle all the time?
The bill is an important one, and definitely controversial. The new law won’t take effect until November 1, nine months from now, and applicants will receive drivers licenses with a red and blue bar across the top so they can be easily identified.
Also joining Quinn and Gutierrez were Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, the senate sponsor of the bill, and State Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno and Illinois House Republican leader Tom Cross.
There are restrictions on the licenses, which are not played up much so as not to weaken the political capitol Quinn hopes to get from the Hispanic community when he seeks re-election.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “To qualify for a license, an applicant must prove they have lived in Illinois for a least a year and show that they are ineligible for a Social Security card. Documents that will be accepted include a copy of a lease, utility bills and a valid passport or consular identification card. Drivers must also pass vision, written and road tests and pay a $30 fee. In order for the license to remain valid, a driver also will be required to get insurance. If a person with a temporary visitor's license is caught driving without insurance, they will be ticketed for both driving without insurance as well as driving without a license. People who want to apply for the licenses must first make an appointment at one of eight designated facilities across the state. Licenses will not be issued on the spot but only after the state can verify application information and perform a facial recognition search against other databases.”
(Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and former Chicago City Hall reporter. He is currently president of Urban Strategies Group and the Town of Cicero and President Larry Dominick are among his clients. His columns are distributed by Creators Syndicate. Reach him at www.hanania.com.)