Illegal aliens are ineligible for driver’s licenses, Michigan’s attorney general said yesterday in an opinion that affects one of the few states that have been granting licenses to undocumented residents.
Attorney General Mike Cox’s opinion is legally binding on state agencies and officers unless reversed by the courts. It was not known how soon any changes would take place or what the opinion means for illegal aliens with currently valid licenses.
Michigan law prohibits the secretary of state from issuing a driver’s license to a nonresident. Mr. Cox, a Republican, said it would be inconsistent with federal law to regard an illegal alien as a permanent resident in Michigan.
The opinion supersedes a 1995 opinion by former Attorney General Frank Kelley, a Democrat.
Mr. Kelley suggested that denying a driver’s license to an illegal alien might violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause, Mr. Cox said. But, Mr. Cox said, “There can be no doubt that a rational basis exists for denying driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.”
Whether illegal aliens should get licenses has become a major political issue. Earlier this year, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, proposed to give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, but he ended up withdrawing that plan after intense opposition.
Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington currently do not require drivers to prove legal status in order to obtain a license.