The Rev. Paul Perez explains the importance of a driver’s license to Michigan’s immigrants and families. He encourages support of the Drive SAFE bills in the state’s legislature.
Director of Connectional Ministry, Michigan Conference
Drive Michigan Forward, a coalition of immigrants and their allies, advocates restoring driver’s licenses for all Michiganders, regardless of immigration status. This week the coalition launched the #Licenses4LovedOnes campaign. The goal is to schedule a hearing and vote with the Michigan House Rules and Competitiveness Committee on the Drive SAFE bills introduced in the Michigan State legislature on May 11, 2021. The committee must first approve the bills before they can be considered and voted on by every legislator. Unfortunately, the last committee hearing was canceled, so the coalition is asking Rep. Jim Lilly, the Committee Chair, to reschedule.
This week the coalition has a different action you can engage in every day — like calling or emailing an elected official or posting on social media. So, I encourage you to check out the Drive Michigan Forward website and take action in one of those very simple ways.
Why focus on driver’s licenses? Up until 2008, undocumented immigrants could receive Michigan driver’s licenses. The coalition believes that restoring this practice will impact the lives of immigrants, their families, and Michigan communities in the following ways:
- Mobility in life … Many undocumented people are navigating the long, cumbersome process of getting work visas or becoming citizens. Driver’s licenses are needed in almost every community in Michigan. Driving is essential for work (especially for those unable to work remotely), school, medical care, participation in a faith community, and the enjoyment of cultural and social activities.
- Live and drive without fear … Having driver’s licenses would allow those who are undocumented to drive without fear of being pulled over and separated from their families. It will also create an environment for better interactions with police if persons are pulled over.
- Safer Roads … Having access to a driver’s license allows one to enroll in driver education, take driver’s tests, register vehicles, and secure automobile insurance, therefore making the world safer for everyone.
- Benefit for others … Rural community members who were born in the State, but may not have a birth certificate, will also benefit.
After my son received his drivers’ permit last spring, I reflected in my blog on the ease with which he could navigate the process and the privilege it is to be a citizen of the U.S.A. He has since passed his driver’s test, been added to our insurance, and is now driving himself to school, to see friends, and to run simple family errands. It feels silly to say, but it has improved our quality of life.
I believe restoring driver’s licenses for people who are undocumented immigrants is a simple, clear way to improve our neighbors’ quality of life. Being able to participate in your community and travel without fear really does help to build the beloved community and experience abundant life.
As your Christian conscience leads, I invite you to join me in solidarity with the Drive Michigan Forward campaign.