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Campaign to allow driver's licenses regardless of immigration status renews

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Michigan Secretary Of State Office
A sample Michigan driver's license.

Supporters of legislation that would let undocumented immigrants receive Michigan driver’s licenses and IDs are renewing their push to get those bills a committee hearing.

The bills, known as Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom and the Economy), would require the state to make rules for proving Michigan residency to get a driver’s license when someone can’t show their legal status.

State Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy) is a sponsor of the bills. She said her proposal would help a wide range of people.

“Some of the people are obviously from Michigan like elderly people in rural areas who may not have birth certificates,” Kuppa said.

She said bureaucratic issues like processing delays can keep documented immigrants from getting licenses, too.

“If people have driver’s licenses, then they can get access to car insurance, which means that they are more likely to stop when they are put in a traffic accident. They are also able to take driving lessons to learn how to be better, to follow traffic laws,” Kuppa said.

The bills were slated for a hearing before the House Rules and Competitiveness Committee in September, but the hearing was abruptly postponed.

On Monday, the coalition Drive Michigan Forward kicked off its weeklong campaign to get that hearing rescheduled.

Alsina McMorris’ husband was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after his driver’s license expired and he had no way of renewing it. Speaking during a livestream Monday for Drive Michigan Forward, she said it comes down to an issue of dignity.

“People have lost themselves not having a driver’s license. Even as a mere ID. They don’t — some of them can’t have a bank account. Some of them is just existing and not thriving,” McMorris said.

Still, it’s unclear when or if the Drive SAFE bills will move forward, though Kuppa framed those odds as a matter of the campaign’s ability to demonstrate the package’s importance to decision makers.

“What takes priority is decided by the chair of the committee and finally by the Speaker of the House, and so, it’s really dependent on the people in charge to make those decisions and make this a priority,” Kuppa said.

The House Rules and Competitiveness Committee chair did not respond to a request for comment, but Kuppa said she believes the committee is still open to holding a hearing on the bills.

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