Skip to content

Senator Tom Barrett, drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants and the DeVos Family

August 18, 2019

On Friday, in an article published by MLive, it was announced that there will be legislative support for Movimiento Cosecha’s Drivers Licenses for All campaign. 

State Senator Stephanie Chang will be introducing legislation in the upcoming weeks that will allow undocumented immigrants the opportunity obtain a drivers license in Michigan. Michigan used to grant undocumented immigrants the right to obtain a drivers license, but that change in 2007, when Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox made a ruling to prevent undocumented immigrants from obtaining a Michigan Drivers License.

The MLive article includes video taken by Movimiento Cosecha that shows a member of Movimiento Cosecha asking Gov. Whitmer if she supports undocumented immigrants and their desire to have a drivers license in Michigan. Whitmer said she would support the granting drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants.

It is important to recognize that the only real reason that some Michigan politicians are willing to support drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants is because of all the organizing that Movimiento Cosecha and other immigrant rights groups have done to make drivers licenses an issue.

However, there are some Michigan legislators, specifically Republican lawmakers, who do not support allowing undocumented immigrants to have a Michigan drivers license. One such politician is Sen. Tom Barrett, a Republican from Charlotte. Barrett was quoted in the MLive article as saying that allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a drivers license is a,”slippery slope towards granting amnesty or giving them voting rights.” He also stated:

“We have to respect the laws of our country, not encourage or reward people for being here illegally.”

So, lets unpack what Sen. Barrett had to say.

First, on the matter of respecting the laws of the country. Since the founding of the US, most laws have benefitted white people, particularly white people with property. The laws of the US have primarily punished the poor, black, brown and indigenous people. It was legal to own slaves for nearly 100 years in the US. It was legal to disenfranchise communities of color for most of US history and still the system has found ways to prevent people of color from voting. It has been legal in the US to actively discriminate against black, brown and immigrant people. It was legal to deport Chinese immigrants after the Chinese Exclusion Act. It was legal to round up Japanese Americans during WWII and forcibly put them in internment camps. It was legal for white people to take indigenous land.

Second, undocumented immigrants who come to the US are primarily coming out of desperation, fleeing violence, persecution, poverty and climate injustice. Undocumented immigrants risk their very lives to come to the US so they can have a better life.

Third, providing undocumented immigrants the opportunity to obtain a drivers license is not a reward. When undocumented immigrants are allowed to obtain drivers licenses in Michigan, it means they will be able to support their families, contribute to their communities and contribute to broader community safety.

Fourth, does Senator Barrett realize how ridiculous he sounds when he says, giving undocumented immigrants a drivers license is a slippery slope towards granting amnesty or giving them voting rights. How is granting people asylum a slippery slope? As was already stated, people are risking their lives to flee dangerous circumstances and should be able to apply for asylum with the fullest support of the legal system.

Fifth, we all know that only those who have citizenship can vote, so either Senator Barrett doesn’t know the law or he is merely using rhetoric which speaks to his constituents, rhetoric which is rooted in xenophobia, nationalism and white supremacy.

Sixth, Senator Barrett has been a politician only since 2014 and he has won the past few elections primarily because of the amount of money he has raised since becoming a State Representative and State Senator in Michigan. According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the number one family to contribute to Tom Barrett since he first ran for office in 2014, is the DeVos Family. The top two entities to finance Tom Barrett since he first ran for office, have been the House Republican Campaign Committee and the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. The number one contributor to both of those GOP entities has been the DeVos Family.

Therefore, since the DeVos Family has been the primary economic contributor to Senator Tom Barrett, we can certainly put some of the blame on them when Barrett says dumb ass shit like, “We have to respect the laws of our country, not encourage or reward people for being here illegally.”

%d bloggers like this: