LANSING — Sens. Stephanie Chang (D–Detroit) and Winnie Brinks (D–Grand Rapids), along with Reps. Alex Garza (D–Taylor) and Rachel Hood (D–Grand Rapids) and a broad-based coalition of organizations, today announced a bill package to allow all Michigan residents the opportunity to obtain state identification cards or driver’s licenses.
The Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and the Economy) bills apply to Michigan residents who meet the definition of a having a residence in Michigan, including those who may not be able to prove their lawful presence. These beneficiaries include the elderly — particularly those of rural origins whose births may not have been properly recorded or whose records were lost, U.S. citizens born abroad to American families, foreign adoptees and those who are undocumented.
“I am proud that such a broad-based coalition has come together to support driver’s licenses for those who cannot prove their legal residence. It is time to update Michigan’s laws to enhance safety on the road, grow our agricultural economy, and protect human dignity,” Sen. Chang said. “Our undocumented neighbors are just trying to support their families and contribute to our communities — having access to licenses will allow them to take care of their family, get to work, visit a loved one in the hospital, and go to church. Also, ensuring that Michigan drivers have taken drivers training and tests, and gotten car insurance, will greatly increase safety on the road.”
Senate Bill 631 and House Bill 5192, introduced by Sen. Chang and Rep. Garza, respectively, would require the Secretary of State — after developing rules in cooperation with law enforcement, immigrants’ rights groups and other interested parties — to issue a driver’s license to applicants who satisfy all other requirements for a license.
Senate Bill 632 and House Bill 5193, introduced by Sen. Brinks and Rep. Hood, respectively, would do the same for the issuance of a state identification card.
“Michigan farmers rely on migrant workers to harvest our crops and work in our packing sheds,” Rep. Garza said. “These hardworking families living in our state want to be able to legally drive, and this legislation would help make that possible for them. I believe, with this effort, we can find common ground in supporting both a safer Michigan and our agricultural community.”
Currently, 14 states plus the District of Columbia have laws to permit some form of legal driving without proof of immigration status. States allowing undocumented people access to driver’s licenses have seen public safety and economic benefits, including Connecticut, where one report said there were 20% fewer hit-and-run crashes after more than 50,000 undocumented people signed up for driver’s licenses and took driving tests. Over four years, Connecticut also brought in $7.5 million in license fees — revenue that, collected in Michigan, could help fix the roads.
“Immigrants contribute more than $3.3 billion to the Kent County economy alone, and foreign-born workers would have the potential to contribute even more to our communities if eligible for a state identification card,” Sen. Brinks said. “Foreign-born entrepreneurs own and operate businesses of all kinds, and nearly half of the workers in our agriculture industry are immigrants. It’s time we make this change for the sake of our communities and their families.”
It’s estimated there are 130,000 undocumented immigrants in Michigan, accounting for roughly 20% of the immigrant population, according to the American Immigration Council. Under these bills, undocumented residents would be able to contribute even more to Michigan’s agriculture, manufacturing and automobile sectors.
“For generations, people from all over the world have found a home here in Michigan and allowing them to apply for licenses is a commonsense step for our state,” Rep. Hood said. “These bills provide our neighbors the basic right to operate a vehicle when properly insured and licensed while also protecting all of Michigan’s drivers, bikers and pedestrians from harm and bankruptcy, especially following the recent changes to our Auto No-Fault system. They also ensure that all members of our communities can continue making valuable contributions to our home and economy without fear.”
The legislators were joined by a bipartisan coalition of supporters, including Det. Sgt. Ted Nelson (Ret.) with the Michigan State Police; Tom Hickson from the Michigan Catholic Conference; Rob Steffens of Steffens Orchard Market in Sparta; and, Pamela Quintana-Salazar, a student at Michigan State University and whose parents were deported.
Organizations that have indicated their support of this issue include:
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