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Bill package would give driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in Michigan

Posted at 8:38 AM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 08:38:20-04

DETROIT — A new set of bills being dubbed the Drive Safe bill package would allow both driver's licenses and state IDs to undocumented immigrants.

Currently, there are 16 states and Washington DC that allows both driver's licenses and state ID cards to those living in those states undocumented. A few include Illinois, California, Utah and Vermont. Virginia was the latest to pass legislation in 2020.

On the west side of our state, Grand Rapids City Commissioners adopted a resolution last year urging state lawmakers to adopt the legislation that is now in the form of these two bills, introduced last week.

It is very important for everyone to be able to mobilize,” said Gema Lowe.

Lowe is a community organizer for Movimiento Cosecha, a group dedicated to fighting for the rights and dignity of undocumented immigrants. The group is hoping for change with these two bills.

“We still live, work, go to school, go to the grocery store, go to church in Michigan with a fear of being stopped,” said Lowe.

However, these bills do not come without controversy. Generally, Conservatives feel driving is not a right but a privilege to those who are in the state legally. There is also a concern over national security.

It was back in 2008 that former Attorney General Mike Cox wrote an opinion, which eventually became law, stating undocumented immigrants in the state cannot receive a driver's license or a state ID.

At the time, there was concern over complying with the Real ID Act. The act making meant to make driver's licenses more secure against terrorism in a post 9/11 era.

Cox wrote in his opinion “In light of these implications to state and national security unique to driver's licenses and the potential for fraud resulting from the improper issuance of a driver's license, it is essential that those involved in executing the law issue a driver's license only to persons who are legally entitled to be granted that privilege.”

One of the several sponsors on the bill, State Rep. Stephanie Chang, tells 7 Action News they are trying to dispel certain myths about these set of bills and set the record straight.

“We are very clear in here that these cannot be used for voting, it literally says it in the bill,” said Representative Chang.

She says if the bills are passed, not only could the driver's licenses and state IDs not be used for voting purposed but they will also not be used for federal purposes, like flying. They will have a different look than regular licenses.

Representative Change says these bills would also make the roads safer.

“Unlicensed drivers are much more likely to cause or get into a fatal crash,” said says.

According to a study from AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety, one in every five crashes involved a driver with either an invalid license or no license at all.

“Getting your license, taking that test, getting the drivers training, getting your car insurance all of these things will make a big difference for safety on the road,” said Representative Chang.

Both bills have been will now head to the Senate Transportation Committee. These bills likely have the support of Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Back in 2019, she stated in an interview she supports undocumented immigrants getting driver's licenses and state ids.