GRAND RAPIDS, Mich – More than a hundred Hispanic families packed Grand Rapids City Hall to express support for the issuing of drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants in Michigan. The issue was not on the city’s agenda, but it was the major focus of the public forum.
“To go to work, to go to the bank, to get car insurance, I think it would be better for everyone,” said Jose Quintana, 48.
Last summer, President Obama announced a federal policy that allows certain illegal immigrants to avoid deportation temporarily and obtain work permits.
Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has said the president’s action does not mean undocumented individuals can get driver’s licenses in the state nor that the federal policy doesn’t gives them legal status in Michigan.
The issue has been a hot button in states across the country.
This week, the Illinois state senate voted 41-14 in favor of granting drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. If the House passes the bill and it is signed into law by Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois would join only two other states, Washington and New Mexico, in granting such licenses.
Many Hispanic families living in Grand Rapids are hoping Michigan will do the same.
“Not one person came out and spoke against this, everyone here was in support of it,” said Quintana about the city commission public forum.
While city leaders don’t have the power to change the law, they can influence lawmakers.
“On the one hand there is absolutely nothing we can do to directly resolve the problem they are bringing,” said Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, “bbut what we do have is a pulpit here, and Grand Rapids is an influential city in the state of Michigan.”