Michigan Introduces Driver’s License Bill For Illegal Aliens Again
FAIR Take | May 2021
At the height of the Biden border surge with thousands of illegal aliens entering cities nationwide, Michigan state legislators once again introduced bills to allow illegal aliens in the state to apply for drivers' licenses and state ID cards. The bills are called the “Drive SAFE" Acts, with SAFE standing for “Safety, Access, Freedom and the Economy.” While Democrats support the idea, the Republican-controlled legislature is still likely to stop it. However, the Republican opposition is not guaranteed since big business groups including the powerful agriculture lobby are pushing some Republican members to support this legislation as well.
Senate Bill (SB) 433, sponsored by Senator Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and House Bill (HB) 4835 by Representative Padma Kuppa (D-Troy) authorize Michigan driver’s licenses for illegal aliens. SB 434 by Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) and HB 4834 by Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) authorize state non-driver ID cards for illegal aliens.
Identical to the 2019 bills, each of the bills would:
- Create a new category of driver’s licenses and state ID cards for illegal aliens who can’t provide the documentation necessary to comply with the federal Real ID Act of 2005;
- Provide a list of acceptable documents to prove identity, residence and age, including foreign consular ID cards, foreign passports, foreign driver’s licenses, foreign birth certificates, foreign voter ID cards and receipts for asylum applications;
- Require the Michigan Department of State (DOS), which issues and regulates Michigan driver’s licenses and state ID cards, to adopt rules for verifying those identity and residence documents, “in consultation with appropriate interested parties including, but not limited to, law enforcement and immigrants’ rights representatives;”
- Indicate on the new category of licenses and state ID cards that they are not valid for federal purposes;
- Prohibit discrimination against anyone for holding the new licenses and state ID cards;
- Prohibit law enforcement from detaining, arresting, penalizing or discriminating against anyone solely for holding the new licenses and state ID cards;
- Make all information and documents collected to apply for the new licenses and state ID cards confidential and exempt from public records rules, meaning it would require a subpoena, warrant or other court order to disclose; and
- State that the new licenses and state ID cards do not grant voting rights to non-citizens.
The bill's supporters say their next step is to try to gain the backing of Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park), chairman of the House Rules and Competitiveness Committee. The House bills are currently assigned to his committee, so his support could guarantee that they are scheduled for a hearing, thus advancing them forward in the legislative process. However, that move would require Lilly to break with most of his party. If he did move the bills forward, he might not face significant repercussions since House leadership has not been as outspoken in its opposition to illegal-alien driver’s licenses as Senate leadership. Republicans outnumber Democrats 52-58 in the House and 20-16 (with two vacancies) in the Senate.
The Michigan Farm Bureau, which has supported the bills since 2019, is likely to try to push Republican legislators in rural agricultural areas to back them in order to ensure access to cheap illegal farm labor.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) supported drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens in 2019 . Her position now is contrary to the stance she previously took. The Michigan Senate Republicans highlighted the governor’s flip-flop on the issue, noting that “[i]n 2008, then-Senator Gretchen Whitmer and every member of the Michigan Senate voted against issuing driver's licenses to anyone in our state illegally.” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) added, “I stand with Senator Gretchen Whitmer, who voted against issuing licenses to undocumented immigrants in 2008.”
Should any of the bills reach her desk, the governor would be practically certain to sign them.
Driver’s licenses for illegal aliens are one of the biggest benefits states a state can provide. A driver’s license creates an appearance of legality and acts as an “internal passport” opening many doors throughout the United States.
Michiganders will need to pay close attention to what goes on in Lansing and keep pressure on their elected officials to ensure driver’s licenses are stopped again this year.