Immigrant Driver's Licenses Legislation Will Prevent Fraud, Dry Up Black Market, and Promote Highway Safety

December 10, 2012



ICIRR Statement responds to Chicago Sun-Times “Chinatown license fraud ring put dangerous drivers on the street” story December 10, 2012 

In response to today’s Chicago Sun Times article Chinatown license fraud ring put dangerous drivers on the street,” the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has issued this statement:

Today’s Chicago Sun Times carries a story that highlights the document fraud and dangers to Illinois drivers that result from the current lack of an avenue of a legal system through which undocumented immigrants can obtain legal driving documents. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) unequivocally condemns the use of fraudulent documents, including those uncovered by Operation Paper Mountain, a federal investigation of a fake document ring that was cracked in 2008. 

The Highway Safety Legislation that we support, SB 957, is an especially important and relevant piece of legislation because it will protect both our roads and the rule of law. Under our current system undocumented immigrants who would like to obtain legal driving privileges cannot do so. The Sun-Times story shows that this creates a lucrative black market for fraudulent documents, corruption in the Secretary of State’s office, and results in large numbers of unlicensed or fraudulently licensed and uninsured drivers sharing our roads.

The reality is that Illinois is home to approximately 250,000 immigrant motorists who are unable to get a driver’s license and insurance.  SB 957 would make Temporary Visitor Driver’s Licenses (TVDL) available to these motorists who also need to drive and provides a concrete solution to the problem of document fraud by drying up the black market for expensive fraudulent documents.  Encouraging these motorists to get tested and insured is a better solution than allowing people to drive on our roads without the proper requirements.  Data from other states that have similar programs demonstrates that immigrant motorists, if allowed, do in fact apply for licenses and insurance.

TVDL is a driving card and its sole purpose is to prove that the person behind the wheel has been trained, tested, licensed and insured. The TVDL contains many security and anti-fraud guarantees.

  • The TVDL is visually distinct, and states on the License that it cannot be used for purposes other than driving. Therefore it cannot be used to board a plane, purchase a firearm, enter a federal building or vote.
  • The TVDL applicants will undergo a biometric identity check and;
  • All TVDL applicants will need to provide a valid current passport or consular ID document.  Foreign governments already establish strong procedures for issuing these documents for verifying those that get issued.  These governments have no interest in enabling fraud.
  • The Secretary of State photographs all applicants for any license, and uses facial recognition software to prevent duplicate identities.
  • All applicants must show they have lived in Illinois for at least one year, so people would not be able to claim bogus addresses in Illinois to get a TVDL.
  • The Secretary of State (SoS) will also process applications at a central location in order to verify documents.  No one will be issued a TVDL on the same day; SoS will check the applicant’s documents and, if they are legitimate and meet all standards, SoS will send the TVDL to the applicant by mail.
  • Finally, the Secretary of State will have the authority to set further standards for which documents he will accept.

The ICIRR along with the Highway Safety Coalition will continue to work with legislators and the Secretary of State to ensure that anti-fraud measures are fully implemented. 

Temporary Visitor’s Drivers Licenses are a solution to the type of document fraud that took place in Chinatown between 2002 and 2008. We look forward to passing this legislation in the House of Representatives in early January.


The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 130 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. For more information, visit