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State to issue licenses to eligible undocumented immigrants

Secretary of State

Beginning Tuesday, certain undocumented immigrants living in Michigan will be able to get driver's licenses and state IDs.

Earlier this month, Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson reversed her position and said immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and are eligible for temporary federal work permits can get licenses.

Johnson changed her position after the Obama administration clarified that individuals eligible for the permits, called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, can obtain licenses.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan had filed a lawsuit to force a change in the policy, but it's since dropped the suit. Miriam Aukerman is an attorney with the ACLU, she said young immigrants will now be able to live more normal lives because they'll be able to legally drive -- a necessity for any type of employment in much of the state.

"Young people who are affected by this are, I think, tremendously relieved and glad that they have the choice to remain in Michigan," Aukerman said. "We were seeing young people who were leaving the state and taking their talents with them to other places."

Aukerman estimates there are about 15,000 people in Michigan eligible for the federal deferral program. In order to be eligible, immigrants must have come to the United States before they turned 16. They must be under 30 and have been living in the country for at least five years. They also must be in school, have graduated or served in the military.

-- Joseph Lichterman, Michigan Radio Newsroom