Updated: February 14, 2013 6:46AM
Let’s celebrate the value of small, positive steps. They move us toward a generally improved future and allow us to contemplate the value of larger, more positive steps later.
Such is the Illinois law enacted this past week that gives about 250,000 illegal immigrants in the state the chance to obtain a three-year, renewable driver’s license.
While controversial within the larger issue of national immigration policy, the new law is a modest approach — not designed to address the problem of porous national borders, unidentified foreign-born populations or what constitutes a valid path to citizenship. The license otherwise cannot be used as an ID to, for example, buy a gun or register to vote.
We believe it’s a good idea to require undocumented residents to take driver’s education to become better drivers, have auto insurance and be part of system that adds to everyone’s safety on the roads.
As it stands now, one in seven Illinois drivers has no car insurance and almost as many do not have a license. Any measure that improves those percentages is a good thing. Unlicensed drivers are five times more likely to be involved in a crash, and the role of undocumented drivers in that chain of crashes speaks for itself.
When Gov. Pat Quinn signs the law, which he has enthusiastically indicated he will, Illinois will join Washington state and New Mexico as states having taken a similar step. Given the growing political power of Hispanics, they won’t be the last.
For the law to work properly, those who most benefit must be convinced that it’s no trick to make them more susceptible to law enforcement and deportation. This law validates that illegal immigrants are here and likely to remain. Eventually, we will want them to be integrated as citizens, to share openly and freely in being Americans.
But that utopian destination sits at the far end of a long road from where are now. Human nature makes it difficult to leap for an ultimate goal in one bound.
So we begin the journey with small, imperfect but useful steps.