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Taking our foot off the brakes: Why driver’s licenses for all makes sense

The Michigan Legislature has before it a package of bills that would allow all Michigan residents—including undocumented immigrants and those who cannot prove their legal presence—the opportunity to obtain a driver’s license or state identification card. The Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom and the Economy) bills,1 introduced by Senators Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), along with Representatives Alex Garza (D-Taylor) and Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids), would bring Michigan law up to speed with that of 14 other states2 that allow residents who meet all other requirements to obtain a driver’s license.

Until 2008, all Michiganders had the ability to obtain a driver’s license after passing a driver’s test and meeting other requirements. After 2005, many states amended their driver’s license laws following the REAL ID Act, which established standards for driver’s licenses and documents used for federal purposes (like boarding a plane in the United States). In late 2007, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox issued an opinion that stated undocumented immigrants in Michigan should not be considered residents and therefore were not eligible for driver’s licenses.3 In 2008, the Secretary of State complied with the opinion and the state Legislature codified this opinion into law.



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