Michigan Democrats called a press conference Thursday to introduce their Drive SAFE legislation, a pair of bills that would provide driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants in the state.
The Drive SAFE bills, standing for safety, access, freedom, and economy, are carried 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.
Chang said the bills would allow “Michigan residents who meet the definition of residency in Michigan and can prove their identity, but may not be able to prove lawful presence, to access operator’s licenses or state ID cards.”
“But this legislation will cover not just undocumented immigrants,” she said. “Many people will benefit from passage of this legislation—DACA recipients, legal immigrants who haven’t received their verification documents because of bureaucratic delays, rural or elderly people who don’t have birth certificates, citizens born abroad, and foreign adoptees all will directly benefit.”
“As a daughter of immigrants, I know it is so important that we acknowledge that our state is becoming increasingly diverse and that immigrant communities are not only growing in numbers, but also in contributions to our state,” Chang added.
Chang said she has been working on the legislation for five years and has seen the number of supporters “exponentially increase.” She noted that more than 14 other states and Washington, D.C. already have similar laws in place, while many other states, such as Minnesota, are considering the legislation.
“We will work as hard as we can and for as long as it takes to get this done,” she concluded.
Look at this growing coalition of stakeholders, everyone from faith leaders and apple growers to law enforcement and immigrant rights advocates! All working together for driver's licenses for our neighbors. #mileg #driveSAFE pic.twitter.com/y73XQ4kUXz
— Stephanie Chang (@stephanielily) October 31, 2019
Brinks said that immigrants have contributed $3.3 billion to the economy in Kent County, where her hometown of Grand Rapids is located.
“Nearly half the workers in our agriculture industry are immigrants,” Brinks said. “Immigrants work in all sectors of our economy providing valuable contributions in these and other key industries, like hospitality, recreation, construction.”
“While the circumstances that brought all of us here may vary, the challenges faced by immigrant communities throughout history endure. Not being able to get a driver’s license or an ID shouldn’t be one of them,” she added.
Garza, the chair of the Michigan Legislative Latino Caucus, said the “legislation couldn’t be more crucial for our communities.”
A number of Christian organizations were represented at the press conference, including the Michigan Catholic Conference, which called the bills “common-sense” policy.
“This is one small step that’s protective of all Michiganders,” said Tom Hicks from the Michigan Catholic Conference.
The city of Grand Rapids, which both Brinks and Hood call home, recently issued a letter urging lawmakers to pass a bill to provide driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
“The city of Grand Rapids aspires to be nationally recognized as an equitable, welcoming, innovative and collaborative city with a robust economy, safe and healthy community, and the opportunity for all for a high quality of life,” the letter said, as The Michigan Star reported. “We support undocumented immigrants being able to lawfully obtain driver’s licenses and urge you to propose legislation that would allow immigrants to more easily integrate into their communities and benefit all Michiganders.”
Thursday’s full press conference can be watched below:
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Drive Safe Legislation Press Conference” by Stephanie Chang.