Undocumented immigrants could get Michigan driver’s licenses under proposal

LANSING, MI – A pair of bills pending in the House of Representatives would allow undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses through the state of Michigan.  

Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, and Rep. Dave Pagel, R-Berrien Springs, have introduced legislation requiring the state to issue a driver’s license or state personal identification card to those who cannot produce documentation showing they are in the country legally but satisfy all other requirements.

Under House Bills 4794 and 4795, the Secretary of State would form rules around which documents to accept as proving Michigan residency, ways to verify those documents and an appeals procedure.  

The bipartisan bill package would allow Michigan residents to safely drive to the grocery store or drop their kids off for school in a state where a car can be essential, said Chang.  

“I think both of us recognize that these are really important issues just to make sure that people are able to do what they need to do,” Chang said.  

The issue used to be bipartisan going in the other direction. 

Before 2008, Michigan was one of a handful of states that issued drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants. But in late 2007 former Attorney General Mike Cox, a Republican, issued an opinion saying driver’s licenses could not be issued to undocumented immigrants.  

The legislature then passed a law solidifying that and banning undocumented immigrants from getting Michigan driver’s licenses. It passed with wide margins: 99-5 in the House and unanimously in the Senate.  

Currently, Michigan driver’s licenses and ID cards are only issued to those legally present in the United States, according to Secretary of State spokesperson Fred Woodhams.  

Chang and Pagel are hoping to change that. Chang said having more licensed drivers would make roads safer and allow more people to purchase insurance, which benefits all drivers by expanding the pool of people paying in. 

Chang introduced similar legislation last year, but it didn’t get through before the legislative session ended and bills expired.  

Late last year, farmers expressed an interest in being able to get driver’s licenses for migrant workers without requiring them to prove citizenship.  

Michigan farmers want to bring back driver’s licenses for migrant workers 

Chang said she and Pagel were pushing for a hearing on their bills when the legislature gets back into session this fall. 

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