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Bills that would allow undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses languish in Michigan House

Posted at 11:05 AM, Feb 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-20 16:00:35-05

LANSING, Mich. — A coalition is pushing lawmakers to hold a hearing on two bills in the Michigan House called Drive SAFE, which stands for "Safety, Access, Freedom and the Economy".

The bills would allow undocumented immigrants to get a driver's license . Supporters argue better access will make roads safer.

“If I get a driver's license, I'm going to have insurance, and, if I have insurance, I'm going to be able to respond for anything that I do wrong," said Oscar Castaneda, chair of the civil rights for immigrants task force within Action of Greater Lansing.

He says that allowing people to have access to driver's licenses and IDs is really an issue of road safety. State Rep. Padma Kuppa, a Democrat representing Troy, agrees.

“What happens is, if you cannot show your legal status here because your visa is in process, Secretary of State won't give you a driver's license, even though you're here legally because of the [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] process to get your visa renewed," she said.

Kuppa says the issue doesn't just affect undocumented people either.

“This is something that affects immigrants of all kinds, as well as people who can't find their birth certificate. Maybe they're from a rural area, maybe they are older and don't have a birth certificate to prove," she said.

Without a license, even everyday tasks take on an extra level of difficulty.

“I know many people who could be productive in society and they are not. Because in Michigan, you need a car to do many things," he said. "One example of this woman who I really know she is waiting for the paperwork to go through because she married an American. She's been waiting for her paperwork for two years. She cannot get a driver's license. She's sitting on it, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting. She cannot take the kids to school because she's afraid of driving without a license.”

Across the U.S., 17 states allow immigrants to get driver's licenses.

“And they are not inundated by criminals. They do not have the highways full of bad people doing bad things," Castaneda said.

Kuppa says the solution needs to come from the legislature and right now the bills are waiting on a hearing in the Michigan House.

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Elle Meyers

Elle Meyers

6:12 PM, Apr 12, 2021

State Capitol

Neighborhood Reporter

Elle Meyers

FOX 47 News Neighborhood Newsletter