Immigrants and allies celebrate first step towards restoring driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants
GRAND RAPIDS — Cosecha Michigan and the Drive Michigan Forward coalition held a joint press conference today following the introduction of “Drive SAFE” bills that would allow undocumented immigrants in Michigan to apply for and obtain driver’s licenses regardless of their immigration status. The introduction of the bill comes after two years of immigrant-led marches and protests in support of “Licenses for All”.
“For immigrants in Michigan, not having a driver’s license means risking ICE detention and deportation just for driving to work or to drop our children off at school,” said Ana Isabel, a representative from Movimiento Cosecha, Grand Rapids. “Everyone deserves the right to go about their daily lives without the fear of being separated from their loved ones. So today we celebrate this step forward to finally being able to drive without fear.”
The Drive SAFE bills, introduced today by Sens. Stephanie Chang and Winnie Brinks in the Senate and Reps. Alex Garza and Rachel Hood in the House, would restore access to driver’s licenses for immigrants in Michigan, who would have to undergo the same licensing process as everyone else, including tests and fees.
Michigan previously allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses until the law was changed in 2008. Currently, 14 other states allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, including New York and Oregon, which passed “Licenses for All” legislation this year.
Speakers at the event inside the Urban Core Collective spoke to how the policy would help immigrant communities by affirming the dignity and humanity they deserve. Immigrant communities call Michigan home and deserve to have the freedom to travel without fear.
“The introduction of the bill is because of two years of immigrant organizing in Michigan. We took to the streets and mobilized immigrants and allies from Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo to Ann Arbor and Detroit,” said Idalia Tinoco, an immigrant business owner and representative from Movimiento Cosecha Grand RapidsGR. “The power of the community has gotten this bill introduced and it will win us licenses for all.”
“People come to this country and to our beautiful state because they strive for hope, for a better life, and the people of Michigan should be helping in every way we can to make these wonderful people feel welcome,” said Jenny Risaro, an attorney from the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. “But perhaps most of all, this bill is an issue of dignity. A driver’s license is more than just a verification of identity, and is more than just the ability to drive, but is a form of proof that immigrants are people and they belong in this state.”
Movimiento Cosecha Michigan is part of a national movement fighting for permanent protection, dignity and respect for all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Cosecha Michigan has immigrant-led teams in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Detroit, and Ann Arbor that have been fighting for driver’s licenses for all since 2017. Marches in support of licenses have taken place in all four cities, including large marches on May 1, 2019. Undocumented immigrants and allies also participated in a 65-mile walk from Grand Rapids to Lansing last October to raise awareness for the need for driver’s licenses.
Drive Michigan Forward is a coalition of immigrants, their families and their allies whose goal is to restore driver’s licenses to all and pave the way for basic dignity and security for all members of our community. By returning driver’s licenses to undocumented Michiganders, we can make Michigan a place where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and belong.