STERLING – A local group is helping immigrants who are in the country illegally to get their driver's licenses.
This week, Theresa Hooper of Trabajando Juntos (Working Together) sent an email to members of the group, asking them for help with taking immigrants to their appointments at motor vehicle offices.
"Many people from our area [Sterling/Rock Falls] are applying for the driver's licenses for undocumented people," Hooper wrote. "However, some who already have appointments made do not have anyone to take them to their appointments."
Three such appointments are set up for next week, she said.
A state law to allow immigrants in the country illegally to get driver's licenses took effect July 1.
Illinois, New Mexico and Washington are the only three states to allow such driver's licenses. Proponents say "temporary visitor driver's licenses" help to ensure that immigrants are trained and insured drivers, while opponents argue that giving such licenses makes states a magnet for those who break the law.
To get the special license, a person must set up an appointment at one of 36 designated motor vehicle offices. Dixon and Sterling's offices are not on the list.
The nearest offices giving immigrant licenses are Silvis (outside Moline), Princeton, Rockford and DeKalb.
In an interview, Hooper said she favored the new law.
"This is so important that they are working toward their licenses," she said. "They need a license to drive a car legally. We are a group that works on issues related to Latinos."
So far, 50,000 appointments have already been logged in with the secretary of state's office, which runs the motor vehicles division, said the agency's spokesman, Henry Haupt. An appointment set up now will take place in about 90 days, he said.
The appointment is a first step in the process. After that, the secretary of state will proceed to verify a person's information, Haupt said.
"If we didn't have appointments, there would be thousands waiting in line," he said. "The appointment process has worked. We understand that there is high demand. We simply urge that people please be patient."
Here are the number of appointments booked for immigrant driver's licenses at selected motor vehicle facilities:
Source: Illinois Secretary of State