Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and the Economy) Bills (2019)

Michigan Immigrant Rights Center

Legislative Update

November 1, 2019
Senate Bill 0631 and 0632 and House Bills 5192 and 5193(2019)
Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and the Economy) Bills 

Yesterday, Senate Bill 0631 and 0632 and House Bills 5192 and 5193 were introduced and are sponsored 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. MIRC supports these bills. We encourage you to attend any future hearing and to take a moment to contact your elected officials to express your support by clicking on the links:

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Senate Bill 0631 and 0632 and House Bills 5192 and 5193 Summary:

The bills would make noncommercial Michigan driver's licenses and state identification cards available to applicants who do not have proof of U.S. citizenship or immigration status. The bills eliminate the "legal presence" requirement for proving Michigan residency and they would specify types of documentation allowable for proving Michigan residency and identity for the new category of documents. One bill would modify the section of the Michigan Vehicle Code relating to driver's licenses and the other would modify the section relating to state identification cards. The bills would forbid discrimination against - and heightened police scrutiny of - individuals holding licenses issued under the new section of the law.

Senate Bill 0631 and 0632 and House Bills 5192 and 5193 Analysis: 

Since 2008, Michigan has required applicants for driver's licenses and state identification cards to provide proof of U.S. citizenship or immigration status by making "legal presence" a requirement for showing Michigan residency. 

Michigan law does not currently provide driver's licenses or state ID cards to individuals who do not have proof of legal immigration status, and some people who are U.S. citizens or in lawful immigration status have struggled to prove it or obtain verification. Significant delay may occur while the Secretary of State verifies certain categories of immigration documents with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services through their Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program, and noncitizens who hold those statuses are often unable to obtain driver's licenses during verification or re-verification periods. 

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have laws that provide access to a driver's license or identification, regardless of immigration status.

This bill aligns with federal requirements under the REAL ID Act, which establishes criteria for Michigan's driver's licenses and state identification cards to be recognized for "federal purposes" like boarding an airplane or entering certain federal buildings, beginning October 1, 2020. Licenses and identifications for "federal purposes" under REAL ID require proof of lawful status. However, the REAL ID Act also allows states to issue standard licenses and identification, without any immigration status requirements. Michigan already issues licenses and identification for "federal purposes" as well as standard licenses and identification. This bill would simply expand access to standard licenses without the "legal presence" requirement. These bills ensure that standard licenses and identification cards be indistinguishable regardless of whether an individual has a proven legal presence or not. All standard licenses would continue to bear a notation indicating they are not to be used for federal purposes, in compliance with the REAL ID Act.

These bills do not relate to voting or voter registration. Only U.S. citizens may vote; the bill includes language affirming that the bill in no way expands access to the right to vote. The Secretary of State already has experience providing driver's licenses and state identification cards to many noncitizens and has procedures in place to only register U.S. citizens to vote.

The bills would have a broad positive impact. They would Allow citizens and currently, eligible immigrants who lack the documentation required by the Secretary of State, to get licenses and state identification cards. Widen the insurance pool and lower costs for all Michigan residents due to unlicensed and uninsured drivers submitting fewer claims. Promote public safety by ensuring that drivers are trained, screened and tested; law enforcement will be able to more efficiently and effectively identify individuals they stop. Increase workforce and economic participation by making it easier for individuals to travel to work, go to the grocery store or doctor, rent an apartment, access health care, purchase insurance, etc. Increase state revenue through vehicle registration and taxes on insurance premiums and car purchases.

MIRC was pleased to have supported the development of the bills together with the bill Primary Sponsors with support from the National Immigration Law Center. The bills reflect the priorities of the Drive Michigan Forward Coalition as well as many other immigrant rights advocates and affected community members throughout the state. The Drive Michigan Forward Coalition consists of We the People, Cosecha Michigan, African Bureau of Immigration & Social Affairs (ABISA), The Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation (DHDC), Michigan People's Campaign,  ACLU of Michigan, Action of Greater Lansing, Progress Michigan, and the Michigan League for Public Policy.