Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and Economy) Bills -- Senate Bills 433, 434 and House Bills 4835, 4836

Michigan Immigrant Rights Center

Legislative Alert: Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and Economy) Bills
Senate Bills 433, 434 and House Bills 4835, 4836

On May 11, 2021, Senate Bills 433/434 and House Bills 4835/4836, also known as the Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and the Economy) bills, were introduced in the Michigan State Legislature. The Drive SAFE bills are sponsored by the following legislators:

MIRC supports these bills. We encourage you to contact your elected officials to express your support by clicking on the following links:

Find your Michigan State Senator
Find your Michigan State Representative

Summary of Senate Bills 433, 434 and House Bills 4835 and 4836:

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 standard licenses and they would specify types of documentation allowable for proving Michigan residency and identity. 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 standard licenses issued under the new section of the law.

Analysis of Senate Bills 433, 434 and House Bills 4835 and 4836:

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 identification 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 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.

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

The bills align 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, 2021. 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. The bills would simply expand access to standard licenses without the “legal presence” requirement. 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 who are currently eligible for driver’s licenses but not eligible to vote. They have 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 so that 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 happy to play a role in the development of the bills along with the bills’ primary sponsors. The bills reflect the priorities of the Drive Michigan Forward Coalition (DMF), a statewide coalition committed to restoring driver’s licenses for all Michigan’s undocumented immigrants and uplifting the dignity and respect for their lives. MIRC is pleased to be a member organization of the DMF coalition along with several other organizations. We will continue to work with DMF on reinstating driver’s licenses for all, alongside many other immigrant rights advocates and affected community members across the state.