Zahra Ahmad, MLive, September 16, 2020
Lupita McCaffrey, a 57-year-old immigrant from Mexico, waited 42 years to get her driver’s license.
McCaffrey, a member of the immigrants rights group Movimiento Cosecha Michigan, joined nearly 100 demonstrators at the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 16, demanding state lawmakers pass a bill that would allow residents to apply for their driver’s license or state ID, regardless of their immigration status.
Demonstrators arrived between 10:30 a.m. and noon before congregating in the state Capitol, chanting and singing songs of protest.
The Drive SAFE plan, short for Safety, Access, Freedom, and the Economy, would let any resident who meets age requirements and can prove Michigan residency obtain a state identification card or apply for a driver’s license, including immigrants living in Michigan without legal permission.
The bills- Senate Bills 631 and 632 and House Bills 5192 and 5193 – are sponsored by Sens. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, and Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, in the Senate and Reps. Alex Garza, D-Taylor, and Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, in the House. Lawmakers have until the end of the year to take action on the bill before it must be introduced again.
The effort will likely be a tough sell in the Republican-controlled state legislature. Republicans in both the House and Senate have said state and local governments shouldn’t hinder enforcement of federal immigration law.
Before 2008, Michigan was among a handful of states that issued driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. But in late 2007, former Attorney General Mike Cox, a Republican, issued an opinion saying driver’s licenses could not be issued to those without legal permission to live in the U.S., and a law was later passed to codify that opinion.
As of June, 16 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico issue driver’s licenses or permits to some or all immigrants who live in the U.S. without legal permission, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The concept is also supported by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who told immigrant rights group Movimiento Cosecha Michigan in 2019 that opening up access to driver’s licenses is “something that’s important to me, it’s important to our economy and it’s important to the people of Michigan.”