News Analysis: Lake County Sheriff Not Seeking Popular Vote on Undocumented Immigrant Issue

Sheriff Mark Curran, who supports bill requiring all Illinois motorists be licensed and insured, explains he feels it's the right thing to do.


Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran is used to getting hate mail.

His unorthodox approach and views, like spending a week in the county jail to bring attention to conditions, have garnered him plenty of hate mail.

But Curran doesn’t care, he’s just trying to do the right thing, he said.

And so, he’s backing a state bill that may not be wildly popular but a law that Curran feels would make roads safer. He has joined with the Highway Safety Coalition to lobby for a bill requiring all Illinois motorists be licensed and insured, including undocumented immigrants.

One reason he wants to see the General Assembly pass a bill sponsored by Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and House Rep. Edward Acevedo, is there are 250,000 undocumented immigrants on the roadways today without driver’s licenses. He feels requiring those drivers to learn the Rules of the Road and get insurance would make roads safer.

Curran is not the only law enforcement official joining with the coalition, which this week announced renewed efforts to introduce and pass the driver's license measure. Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez, Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington, Berwyn Police Chief Jim Riz and  Melrose Park Police Chief Rosa Pitassi are voicing support of the bill.

For police departments, stopping and arresting motorists without a driver’s license takes a lot of resources, Curran said. It takes time to write up reports, wait for cars to be towed and process offenders, he said.

“As we see more and more substantial cuts to policing, we need to priorities our resources,” the sheriff said. “It does not make sense to be allocating so much in police resources to no valid DL (driver’s license.)”

He finds the undocumented immigrants on the roads just want to get to work and are trying to provide for their families.

“The political reality should be pretty clear that there is a growing support for comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.

“For those on the other side of the political issue, the reality is there will be immigration reform. Hopefully, it will be sooner, not later. If these people are going to be on a pathway to citizenship, why wouldn’t we want them to obey the Rules of the Roads in the interim?”

Curran knows his position may not be popular with some. But he is not in a popularity contest. If he were, he’d probably lose. He points to the positions he’s taken in the past that were popular like spending a week in the Lake County jail to see what it’s like or switching parties, he is now a Republican. There also the time he called for the State’s Attorney’s Michael Waller to fire a prosecutor for “inappropriate comments” he made about the Lake County criminal system to a national newspaper.

“The State’s Attorney (Waller) hasn’t talked to me since,” he said. But, “I’m not in this game to make friends or whatever, even if I was, I’m not doing a good job at that.”

“I know what the right thing is,” Curran said. “I know what the reality is. I’m going to speak out on behalf of that.”


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