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MiBiz article on Drivers Licenses for All leaves out immigrant organizers in their reporting

September 4, 2019

Earlier this week, MiBiz published an article announcing that State Senator Stephanie Chang would be introducing legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a drivers license in Michigan. 

The article provides some of the basic arguments for supporting drivers licenses for all, such as it increases public safety and it is good for the economy.

Besides the comments from Sen. Chang, there are also supporting comments from the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) and the Michigan Farm Bureau.

The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce declined to respond, saying they “don’t have formal policy positions on the issue.”

The article does acknowledge that there is already clear opposition to the proposed legislation, coming directly from Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield, who said that providing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants, “encourages undocumented immigration.” Chatfield’s position is naive and reflects that he has no idea why people who are undocumented takes such great personal risk to come to the US. This attitude was also recently expressed by State Senator Tom Barrett who voiced his opposition to drivers licenses for all, saying: 

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

Another opponent to the proposed legislation that was cited in the MiBiz article, was Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young. The Kent County Sheriff stated immigrants who were able to obtain drivers licenses prior to 2008:

That created identity theft issues. Essentially with a couple pieces of paper, someone could create an identification for themselves.”

The most glaring omission from the MiBiz article is that we don’t hear the opinions or perspectives of those who would most benefit from the proposed drivers license legislation, namely the immigrant community. This is a particularly egregious omission, especially since the largest immigrant led movement in Michigan, Movimiento Cosecha, has not only made drivers licenses for all the focus of their organizing over the past year, they also got Gov. Whitmer to publicly endorse drivers licenses for all in early August, when they spoke with Michigan’s Governor at the Democratic debates being held in Detroit.

In addition, one could argue that the whole reason that Senator Chang is going to introduce drivers licenses for all legislation in the coming weeks, is precisely because the immigrant community, especially through the organizing of Movimiento Cosecha, has made drivers licenses for all a central immigrant justice issue. Unfortunately, this seems to not be on the radar of the reporters at MiBiz.

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