Gov Jim Edgar defends illegal immigrants drivers license program

Watch Gov. Jim Edgar's nasty exchange with a reporter on driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. Photo: AP

Chicago, Illinois, December 5, 2012 – It was not the interview Illinois Governor Jim Edgar was expecting when he joined Republican leaders Tuesday for a press conference to support a bill to permit 250,000 illegal immigrants to receive state-issued driver’s licenses.

Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogo (R-Lemont), House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego), Illinois comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, and former Gov. Jim Edgar were in attendance.

The press conference question and answer period with reporters was quickly shut-down after media grilled Illinois lawmaker’s about the bill’s specific provisions and whether, given Illinois’ history of corruption on driver’s licenses, lawmakers can even be trusted to administer such a program.

The upshot: Illinois lawmakers admitted during the news conference there were “no guarantee” illegal immigrants would be insured to drive, which was the stated basis of the legislation. 

When reporters continued to probe the legislation’s insurance gap, Lawrence Benito, CEO of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights side-stepped the issue.

“We’ve been working in good faith to try to put together this legislation, if there are other issues that need to be raised, we are certainly open to it and are working in good faith with all the respective parties for legislation that can work.”

According to the Highway Safety Coalition, the pro-amnesty front group that spearheaded SB 957, uninsured illegal immigrants are the cause of 80,000 crashes a year in Illinois.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is in a bitter fight to repeal a similar law that permits driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, citing security and fraud concerns. Data from the Insurance Research Council shows that in 2000, just before the law took effect, 26.3% of drivers in New Mexico were uninsured.  In 2010, after seven years, New Mexico still had 25.7% of drivers uninsured.

So are Illinois lawmakers misleading the public on this legislation?

Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar attempts to explain the legislation’s misleading insurance provision in this EXCLUSIVE post-press conference interview show an avoidance to stating that the legislation does not guarantee that an illegal immigrant given the privelege to legally drive in the US will be forced to carry liability insurance. 

In the following one-on-one exchange, Edgar, a Republican sounded like more like a Democrat, insisting on using the term, ‘undocumented workers’ instead of ‘illegal alien.’ He also refused to say whether SB957 is for people who are in the country ‘illegally’ and that he “doesn’t care what’s in the Republican Party platform.”

Edgar was also asked about Illinois’ sordid history of licenses-for-bribes.

Former Gov. George Ryan is currently serving prison time for racketing, tax evasion, and conspiracy for his role in a driver’s license for bribes kickback scheme in the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. Eighty other Illinois officials were ultimately indicted for their participation in a scheme that allowed state employees to ‘rig’ driver’s licenses exams, enabling unqualified applicants, including illegal immigrants, to pass the test.

On opponents minds is the 1994 tragedy in which Ricardo Guzman, an illegally licensed truck driver, caused the deaths of six children in a horrific car crash near the Wisconsin border. A federal investigation ensued following the accident that occured when “a mudflap-taillight assembly fell off, punctured the gas tank of a trailing mini-van and the resulting inferno killed six children of Scott and Janet Willis of Chicago.” (Chicago Tribune, How much blame does George Ryan bear for the deaths of the Willis children?)

The Guzman-Willis crash site

Here is a full transcript of this EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:

KELLY: So you are saying that this illegal driver’s license legislation does not in any way guarantee insurance?

GOV. JIM EDGAR: (Under the) current driver’s license (being issued), the same thing could happen. But this bill will require people to buy insurance to keep their license.

You are making the same argument about the uninsured – but they do get it.

KELLY: But those are legal citizens. This is a bill specifically for illegal aliens.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: This is for undocumented people who are contributing to our society, who work, who take their kids to school, and who need a car.

KELLY: You’re not talking about legal immigrants; you are talking about illegal aliens.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: We’re talking about undocumented people, you can call them whatever you want. I call them ‘undocumented immigrants.’

KELLY: We’re talking about people who are in this country illegally.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: People who don’t have insurance today, their insurance lapses, same problem. There is more safeguard in this than for the average motorist.

KELLY: But it is important to clarify: we are specifically talking about people who are in this country illegally.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: Some of them, there are some others who are included in this too.

KELLY: But those people can already get a temporary driver’s license.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: But there’s no guarantee they have insurance.

KELLY: But there’s no guarantee that this bill for driver’s licenses will cause them to get insurance. The insurance comes with the vehicle.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: They are going to want to get the insurance to keep their license. This is very important to them.

KELLY: Are you renouncing the Republican Party platform?

GOV. JIM EDGAR: I don’t know what’s in the Illinois platform. I don’t pay much attention. This is common sense here.

KELLY: Both the state and national Republican Party Platform oppose illegal immigration to this country.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: We’re talking about a fact here. We’re not talking about whether these people are legal or illegal. They’re here. They’re driving. We want to make the highway safe. Most Republicans I know want safe highways.

KELLY: You know that George Ryan is in prison because of an illegal driver’s license scheme.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: Yeah, because we didn’t have a law like this.

KELLY: This would have prevented that? Guzman, who was responsible for the deaths of the six Willis children…

GOV. JIM EDGAR: He paid somebody off.  Because you don’t have to do that now, you can get a license. You don’t have to worry about whether you have to pay somebody off.

KELLY: He didn’t have to worry about it either.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: Yes, he did. He was illegal.

KELLY: That’s the first time I’ve heard that.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: That’s what you said.

KELLY: So you said that without even knowing the facts.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: You said he was.

KELLY: No, I said he got an illegal driver’s license.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: OK, what I’m just saying is that you don’t have to have – the pressure isn’t as much on the undocumented. They can legally get a license.

KELLY: But here’s one final question if I may. So if we have another Willis family tragedy, will that blood be on your hands?

GOV. JIM EDGAR: This won’t cause that. This will reduce that.

KELLY: This will reduce that? Ricardo Guzman was getting a driver’s license through “legal” means.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: He didn’t take the test.

KELLY: You’re saying that Illinois politicians can be trusted to administer this type of program? They aren’t known for waste, fraud, abuse, corruption.

GOV. JIM EDGAR: I didn’t for ten years and I think we were honest, yes.

KELLY: That’s a pretty interesting spin on the deaths of the six Willis children. 


William J. Kelly is an Emmy award-winning TV producer and conservative columnist. He is also a contributor to the American Spectator and He is a native from Chicago’s Southside.

Email questions to him at Find him on Facebook/Williamjpkelly  Read more of Bill Kelly’s Truth Squad in The Communities at the Washington Times

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Read more:George Ryan and why Illinois politicians can’t be trusted to issue illegal driver’s licenses

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William Kelly


Conservative commentator, satirist, and radio talk show host William J. Kelly pens the “Kelly Truth Squad” and “The Tea Party Report” for the Washington Times Communities and is a contributor to the American Spectator and Kelly is also a producer of Emmy award-winning TV and received an Emmy nomination himself for outstanding achievement on-camera. He was previously the Executive Director of the National Taxpayers United of Illinois, a taxpayer watchdog group. He is a native of Chicago’s South side. For more information, visit

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