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Michigan Civil Rights Commission passes resolution in favor of driver's licenses for immigrants

The front of a State of Michigan Driver's License.
Photo credit
Michigan Secretary of State

The state Civil Rights Commission is urging the legislature to expand driver’s license eligibility for undocumented immigrants.

The push to expand driver's license eligibility for undocumented immigrants in Michigan has gained momentum in recent weeks.

In Michigan, only immigrants who can prove they entered the U.S. legally or are eligible to work in the country can get a driver’s license or state ID.

This week, members of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission passed a resolution in support of expanding driver’s license eligibility for undocumented immigrants.

Commission member Gloria Lara led the effort. She emphasized that access to a driver's license is fundamentally a civil rights issue.

"If someone says that you can't drive because of where you live, or you can't have a driver's license because of where you live or the color of your skin that is violating civil rights," she said.

The debate has spilled over into the state legislature, with lawmakers wrestling with the decision of whether to support these proposed changes. Bills that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses or state IDs have been introduced in both the Michigan Houseand Senate.

However, opponents said there are national security issues to consider and the potential misuse of driver's licenses. They said granting licenses and state IDs to undocumented immigrants might lead to confusion among electoral workers, potentially allowing ineligible individuals to cast votes. In the United States, only U.S. citizens are legally permitted to participate in local, state, and federal elections.

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

For Lara, allowing undocumented immigrants to access driver's license is just another way Michigan can become a welcoming place for all.

"There might be families where the driver does not have documents, but the children are citizens because they were born here, then those children can't easily participate in all school activities and other events and with other organizations that they ordinarily would be able to because of lack of transportation," she said.

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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