Bills will restore access to driver’s licenses and state IDs, grow Michigan’s economy and improve road safety

LANSING, Mich., April 12, 2023 — House Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), state Reps. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids), Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) and state Sens. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) and Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) hosted a press conference today to announce the reintroduction of legislation to allow all Michigan residents to obtain state identification cards or driver’s licenses regardless of their immigration status.

“Our legislation will finally allow all Michiganders to engage in our economy, have access to basic freedoms, and do so with the guarantee of safety,” Rep. Aiyash said. “If you live in Michigan and have proven you can be a responsible driver, you should be able to obtain a license, regardless of your immigration status. The safety of our residents should not depend on whether the federal government has figured out our broken immigration system.”

The Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and the Economy) bill package would apply to everyone living in Michigan who meets the definition of having a residence in the state and is being introduced to increase public safety, grow local economies and preserve human dignity.

“This is the second time I’ve sponsored this legislation,” Rep. Hood said. “Michigan has almost 700,000 immigrants contributing to our vibrant communities. These individuals come from a wide variety of backgrounds, talents and trades — before 2008, they were allowed access to receive state identification — it’s time they get this right back. It’s been 15 years too long.”

Unlicensed drivers in general are five times more likely to be in a fatal crash as licensed drivers.  Ensuring that all of Michigan’s drivers are knowledgeable of traffic laws will decrease accidents, decrease the number of those fleeing from accidents because of lack of license/insurance, and ultimately increase the health and well-being of our state. Since New Mexico began issuing non-status dependent driver’s licenses in 2003, alcohol-related crashes decreased 32 percent, and traffic fatalities fell 23 percent.

I am proud to sponsor this bill and to co-sponsor this package that allows residents who do not have proof of immigration status or US citizenship to obtain a driver’s license, free from interference” Sen. Geiss said. “This legislation is necessary to support our neighbors in Michigan with varying forms of immigration status and helps them go about their daily lives with peace of mind. These bills provide assurance that they won’t be targeted for their identity and can be welcomed in our communities. Any legislation that eliminates loopholes and police scrutiny is just and equitable legislation. It is imperative that we provide marginalized residents the opportunity to do great things in our state as we want them to stay, grow, and thrive here

 “This must be the year that Michigan passes the Drive SAFE bills – for the good of our neighbors’ dignity, for the sake of our economy, and for better safety on our roads,” said Sen. Chang. “I am proud to stand with the coalition to introduce these bills for the fifth and final time, because we are going to work extremely hard to finally make the Drive SAFE bills a reality once and for all. Immigrants and others in Michigan are counting on us to restore access to driver’s licenses and state IDs and we will be a better state when we do so.” 

The ability to provide identification and a valid driver’s license enables job seekers to find steady employment regardless of their access to public transit, thus making them more attractive and reliable employees. Michigan’s immigrants play a large and necessary role in the agricultural, auto, and manufacturing industries. By allowing these members of the workforce to lawfully drive to and from work, they will be better workers by arriving at work consistently and on time.

In Michigan, Immigrants and their families are integral parts of our economy. Many run small businesses that face challenges of being unbankable because of the lack of access to driver’s licenses. They can not transport goods or make service runs legally without a driver’s license.  These hard working men and women should be able to operate legally and not be afraid of being arrested on a daily basis and lose their livelihoods. An insurance pool widened by re-licensed drivers under these bills would hold down premium costs, and result in fewer claims originating with unlicensed drivers. Michigan insurance companies will experience increased per capita revenues from the addition of new drivers purchasing auto insurance.

“It’s past time for us to update the laws, make things fair for all Michigan residents and ensure they are not discriminated against, and increase safety on our roads in the process,” said state Rep. Carter.

There is a large, growing list of stakeholders that support the Drive SAFE bills, including faith leaders, fruit and vegetable growers, business leaders, labor organizations, education leaders and immigrants’ rights organizations. Nineteen other states and the District of Columbia have already passed similar laws.