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Democrats call for changing state law to allow anyone who lives in MI to get license or state ID

Michigan Sheriffs' Association

Democrats in the Legislature have called for changing state law to allow anyone who lives in Michigan to get a driver’s license or state ID -- that would include allowing undocumented immigrants.

The American Immigration Council says there are 130,000 undocumented immigrants in Michigan. At least one police group says official IDs would make it easier to keep track of who is or is not violating state laws. Democratic state Representative Alex Garza says changing the law would make it easier for people to find legal employment and pay taxes.

“Our hard-working families should have the ability to legally drive in the state they call home,” he said.

“Nobody wants any individual who is making a deep and important contribution to our communities to be disrupted because they don’t have a simple document like a driver’s license,” said state Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids).

The legislation is supported by immigrant rights groups and the Catholic church. Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she will review the bills, but supports them in concept.

Republican leaders oppose the legislation. The Senate’s Republican leader says if enacted, the legislation would erode the integrity of official IDs.

Ted Nelson is a retired Michigan State Police detective-sergeant. He says readily available IDs help law enforcement.

“There’s already enough things for officers to do with their time. They don’t need to be bound up with all this type of paperwork when a simple driver’s license could have told them who this person was, that they weren’t wanted, that they’re not involved in any criminal activity, and let them go,” he said.

Supporters of immigrant rights say they will keep pushing for driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants until it becomes law. Bills have been introduced in previous years, without passing. Gema Lowe is an organizer with Movimiento Cosecha GR.

“The difference this time is the fight is being from the ground up. So immigrants and allies have put efforts together, so that’s the difference,” Lowe said.

Idalia Tinoco is a business owner from the Grand Rapids area. She says she went through a period when she had to drive to care for her family, but she feared being deported because she didn’t have a license.

“Always driving with the fear that it was possible that I wouldn’t be able to see my family again.”

That translation was by Sergio Cira. Tinoco says she now has her license, and she wants others to be able to drive without fear.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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