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Immigrants, allies celebrate first step towards restoring driver’s licenses

‘Driver’s Licenses for All’ Bill Introduced in Michigan Legislature

State Representative Alex Garza describes the Drive SAFE bills.
State Representative Alex Garza describes the Drive SAFE bills.

DETROIT — 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 Detroit, not having a driver’s license means living with constant fear of detention and deportation just for driving to work or to take our children to school,” said Fabiola, a representative from Movimiento Cosecha Detroit. “Our city is less than 2 miles from the Canadian border and there are ICE agents everywhere in our neighborhoods. We deserve to live our daily lives without the fear of being separated from our loved ones. 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 Detroit Hispanic Development Center 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.

“We are good people, we want to be a part of the community, we want to feel valued, and we want to feel welcomed,” said Alsina McMorris, an immigrant who lives in the Detroit area. “An ID would be a symbol of that. Not that we would just have the ability to drive, but that we have the ability to belong.”

“It’s a very clear case that people still need to drive, work, pick up their kids for work, or do something as simple as getting medicine from a pharmacy, but the consequences overall can mean the difference between life and death,” said Maria Ibarra-Fraye, a representative from We the People Michigan. “We want driver’s licenses. We NEED drivers’ licenses, but it’s more than just about the ability to have identification. This is a safety issue. A license means security for our families. Security for our neighbors. It’s about really being seen.”


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.



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