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1,200 immigrants get Illinois drivers licenses

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 12:30 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 4:11 p.m. CDT
A long line of people begins to enter a Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles office in North Las Vegas as it opens on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. Thousands of Nevada immigrants showed up at Department of Motor Vehicle offices Thursday to obtain driver authorization cards under a new law that made the state the 11th nationally to offer driving privileges to people in the country illegally. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Chase Stevens)

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — More than 1,200 immigrants living in the U.S. illegally have so far received special Illinois driver's licenses under a new state law, an Illinois Secretary of State's office spokesman said Wednesday.

However, more than 30,000 appointments have been scheduled for applicants who want to take the test to obtain the new licenses, said Secretary of States Spokesman Dave Druker. People can currently take license tests at 14 locations statewide, though 36 locations will offer tests by the end of the month.

The licenses, which cost $30, may be used only for driving. They cannot be used as identification to board a plane, vote or buy a firearm. Unlike a standard driver's license, which has a red stripe across the top and may be renewed every four years, the temporary visitor licenses have a purple stripe. License holders must reapply as a new applicant after three years.

Like applicants for traditional licenses, however, each motorist must pass a vision, written and driving test and is required to obtain auto insurance.

Critics of the new system say the state should be cracking down on immigrants who broke the law by entering the country illegally, not accommodating them or making Illinois a more attractive place for them to live. They also say there's a potential for identity fraud because applicants won't be fingerprinted. Instead, a photo of the applicant will be processed through a state facial recognition database.

Supporters counter that the change will make roads safer, by requiring immigrant drivers to have insurance and take tests in order to drive.

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