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Bills Would Allow Driver’s License, ID Cards for the Undocumented

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Lawmakers have introduced bills to grant access to ID cards and driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants multiple times in recent years, but the proposals have not been granted a hearing or vote. (Michigan.gov)
Lawmakers have introduced bills to grant access to ID cards and driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants multiple times in recent years, but the proposals have not been granted a hearing or vote. (Michigan.gov)
 By Suzanne Potter - Producer, Contact
May 12, 2021

LANSING, Mich. -- Undocumented people in Michigan would regain the right to apply for a driver's license or ID card, if two bills introduced Tuesday in the state Senate were to pass.

They're called the Drive SAFE bills, which stands for Safety, Access, Freedom and the Economy.

Sainavya Upparapalle, a 17-year-old member of Michigan's immigrant community from Troy, said the current rules are a huge burden on families such as hers, because her driver's license became invalid when the family's visa came up for renewal.

"I can't go out to get groceries. I can't go out at all. I can't go to school because I can't drive anymore," Upparapalle explained. "And, you know, these are small things, but they make such a huge change in our lives."

Opponents have said giving government IDs to undocumented people would undermine immigration laws. Supporters argued everyone is safer on the road when all drivers have access to training, licensing tests and insurance.

Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, is a co-sponsor of the Michigan House version of the bills, set to be introduced next week.

"Immigrants touch all sectors of our economy, from agriculture and manufacturing to hospitality, health care, construction and more," Hood outlined. "Immigrants are employers, taxpayers, homeowners, and they're our neighbors, family members and friends."

Rob Steffens, owner of Steffens Orchard Market in Sparta, said agriculture depends on immigrant workers.

"We need this population," Steffens contended. "It's important for us, for our economy. It's in the best interest of everybody including the taxpayer to have people be able to drive legally."

Senate Bill 433 and Senate Bill 434 would grant an estimated 100,000 people the right to apply for a driver's license and state ID card, a right that existed in state law prior to 2008. Eighteen other states and territories have already passed similar measures.

Disclosure: Michigan League for Public Policy/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Children's Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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