LANSING — State Reps. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and Dave Pagel (R-Oronoko Township)are introducing a pair of bills recently in the Michigan House that would allow Michigan residents who maintain a home and meet the definition of residence in Michigan, but may not be citizens or able to prove lawful presence, to access operator’s licenses or state identification cards. This group includes not only undocumented workers and immigrants, but also elderly people, 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 (common in military families), and foreign adoptees.
“Every day in this state and in my district, which includes Southwest Detroit, thousands of people get in their cars and drive without a license or insurance. This is not because they want to break the law, but because Michigan law will not allow them to obtain driver’s licenses. It is bad policy and a danger to anyone driving on Michigan roads,” Rep. Chang said. “My bill would ensure that all Michiganders are subject to the same standards, training and testing before they get behind the wheel. It will allow residents who are currently unable to get licenses to be able to go to work, drive their children to school, attend church, and go grocery shopping without fear that they will end up in jail simply for driving.”
Currently, 10 states plus the District of Columbia have laws to permit some form of legal driving without proof of immigration status.
“To me, this is an economic issue as much as it is a social justice or public safety issue,” Rep. Pagel said. “Fruit and vegetable growers in Michigan rely heavily on migrant workers to harvest our crops and to work in our packing sheds. These hardworking families living in our state desire the ability to legally drive and to purchase insurance. This legislation is an important effort to make this possible, supporting both a safer Michigan and our agricultural community.”
Rep. Chang’s bill, House Bill 4794, states that the Michigan Department of State shall promulgate rules in cooperation with law enforcement, immigrants’ rights groups and other interested parties to issue a non-commercial driver’s license to applicants who satisfy all other requirements for a license under the Michigan Vehicle Code other than proof of legal presence.
Rep. Pagel’s bill, House Bill 4795, states that the Michigan Department of State shall promulgate rules in cooperation with law enforcement, immigrants’ rights groups and other interested parties to issue an official state personal identification card to an applicant who is unable to submit sufficient documents to verify his or her identity and legal presence as required by Public Act 222 of 1972.
“Immigrants contribute socially, culturally and economically to our state, regardless of their status,” explained Susan Reed of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Coalition, a group in favor of the bills. “We support access to licensing and identification that recognizes immigrant rights and includes immigrants in drivers’ responsibilities.”