Michigan immigrants rally for restoration of driver’s licenses

What do we want? Licenses. When do we want them? Now
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 6:13 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - On May 24, people in Michigan gathered at the State Capitol demanding new laws to restore driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants to get back them on the road. Since 2008, thousands of Michigan immigrants have lost access to their driver’s licenses.

Advocates rallied on the west steps at the capitol chanting, “What do we want? Licenses. When do we want them? Now.” and “The economy thrives when everyone drives.”

People like Prisicilia Rodriguez have been living in Michigan for 21 years. She said she came here from Venezuela and hasn’t had a driver’s license since 2008. That’s when state law didn’t require a specific immigration status to become a legal driver.

“Without a driver’s license, it’s hard for me to do almost anything, you know?” Rodriguez said she needs her license “because it’s about dignity.” She said she can’t go to the bank or do anything that requires valid identification.

The statewide coordinator for community organizing at the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, Oscar Castaneda, said Drive SAFE (safety, access, freedom, and economy) laws would allow immigrants in Michigan to be part of their community, further their education, and pursue new careers.

Related: Michigan lawmakers reintroduce Drive SAFE Bill to restore driver’s licenses for immigrants

“Anywhere you go there are open jobs. There are not enough people to fill the jobs in Michigan,” Castaneda said. “All these people, they want to work.”

Without a proper government-issued identification card, you can’t apply for a job. But not everyone supports giving driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, calling the push for a repeal a ‘wrong-headed approach.”

“So this is something that where I think it’s extremely important that we fix our immigration system, fix our borders that are there, and actually enforce immigration laws,” said Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt , R-Porter Township. He said he “finds it very unfortunate that folks that break the law, they want to try to legalize them.”

If the legislation passes, it would allow immigrants and migrants to get a state ID or driver’s license as long as they have proof of identity and residency in the state.

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