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Protesters rally for equal access to driver's licenses and IDs at Michigan State Capitol

Michigan United organizer, Adonis Flores, speaks in front of a crowd at the State Capitol about his experience as an undocumented immigrant without access to a driver's license.
Michelle Jokisch Polo
Michigan United organizer Adonis Flores speaks in front of a crowd at the State Capitol about his experience as an undocumented immigrant without access to a driver's license.

Protesters gathered at the Michigan State Capitol on Wednesday, urging legislators to pass the Drive Safe bills, which aim to guarantee access to a state ID or driver's license for residents regardless of immigration status.

The measures were first introduced in 2021, but at the the time, former House Speaker and Republican State Representative Jason Wentworth canceled a hearing on the bills which prevented them from moving forward.

Adonis Flores is the organizing director for Michigan United, the group behind the protest. He told those gathered that he once was undocumented and had his license revoked.

“This is an issue of human dignity. This is an issue of identifying yourself. When everyone is able to get an ID, the police and law enforcement are better able to identify who is on the road.”

In 2008, Michigan lawmakers passed legislation prohibiting undocumented immigrants from being able to obtain a state ID or driver’s license.

Currently, only immigrants who can prove they entered the U.S. legally and can work in the country are eligible for those forms of identification in the state.

Some asylum seekers like Detroit resident Priscilia Rodriguez are not eligible to apply for a driver's license.

Rodriguez has been living in Michigan for the last twenty years. She's originally from Venezuela and a little over two years ago she applied for legal status. Despite qualifying, she's still waiting to receive a permit to work, and without that, she can't receive state identification.

"We deserve dignity and respect," she said. "I can't even go to the bank because I need some sort of legal document to prove my identity nor can I renew my passport, so I'm left in limbo."

Venezuelans like Rodriguez are not able to renew their passports in the United States because there is currently no diplomatic or consular agency in the U.S that can process those applications.

 Adja Ndoye is person with Black skin. She's standing in front of the Michigan State Capitol.
Michelle Jokisch Polo
Adja Ndoye

Adja Ndoye immigrated from Senegal more than ten years ago. She is also a program manager at the African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs. She said not being able to get a driver's license was limiting.

“I had to sell some stuff in front of my house because I couldn't go anywhere, so it definitely limits your movement," she added.

Mayra Garcia is a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient. She came to the United States from Guanajuato, Mexico when she was seven years old. She was granted DACA a few years ago, and only because of that, she is eligible for a driver's license. She fears what would happen if one day her DACA designation wasn't renewed.

"I wouldn't be able to take my children to school, go and get groceries or go to work," she added.

For Garcia, passing the Drive Safe Bills is more than just about safety, it's about ensuring that everyone in Michigan has access to the basic right of being identified and legally recognized.

Legislation to allow any Michigan resident to obtain these forms of identification was reintroduced in April. The bills have been referred to the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure committee and the House Committee on Regulatory Reform.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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