Commentary & Opinion
State approves licenses for undocumented residents in Illinois as politics plays out behind the scenes
Gov. Pat Quinn symbolically signed legislation Sunday at the Latino Institute that would allow undocumented non-resident aliens to obtain drivers licenses. The measure will take effect beginning Nov. 1 of this year, nine months from the date of signing.
The proposal had bi-partisan support and the governor was surrounded by Republican and Democratic legislators including Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno at his side in making the announcement.
The press conference also turned into a behind-the-scenes political battle as allies of Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who is battling several municipal governments in the west suburbs, fought to prevent his political foes from speaking at the event.
Although the hosts of the program introduced many of the dignitaries including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Secretary of State Jesse White, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, State Reps. Lisa Hernandez and Edward Acevedo, the organizers refused to acknowledge others in the audience who represent large Mexican American communities including Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico, Cicero Town President Larry Dominick, and State Sen. Martin Sandoval.
Gutierrez is backing Dominick's challenger, Juan Ochoa, in the Feb. 26 mayoral contest and is at odds with Serpico and Sandoval over issues in the west suburbs.
But Dominick said that he wouldn't be bullied by Gutierrez, noting, "The Town of Cicero was the first municipality to endorse this legislation. It's a good bill because it requires that you must have insurance in order to receive a license. It is going to make our communities and streets safer and make drivers safer, too. It's a common sense bill."
The Cicero Town Board approved the bill at its public board meeting on Nov. 13. The bill was introduced to the legislature several weeks later.
Sandoval said it was ironic that Cicero, which has one of the state's largest Mexican American populations, would not be recognized as a place where the legislation would have its most significant impact.
"President Dominick has been a strong supporter of the Hispanic community, especially the Mexican American community and they know how much he has done," Sandoval said. "It was unfortunate that his support was not acknowledged."
To read the Governor's press release and video statement on the signing, click here.
(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.)