It is time to again allow all Michigan residents who need a driver license to be able to get one. In 2008, Michigan passed a law that prevents Michigan residents who lack valid immigration documentation issued by the Federal Government from getting a Michigan driver license. At present, at least 15 states in the U.S. do issue driver licenses to qualified residents of their state, regardless of their immigration status. The fact that Michigan is not among these states is detrimental to the progress and road safety of our state. Michigan’s population has lagged in comparison to many states. Below are some stark facts regarding Michigan’s deteriorating population rankings among the 50 states:
- When I arrived in Michigan as a teenage refugee from then communist Romania in 1964, the U.S. population stood at 187 million people.
- Today, the U.S. population stands at about 333 million people. That’s an increase of about 80%.
- In 1964, Michigan was the 7th most populous state with a population of about 8.1 million people.
- Today, Michigan’s population stands at 10.3 million people. That’s an increase of a mere 25% over almost 60 years.
- As a consequence, Michigan’s population ranking has gone down from the 7th to the 10th most populous state during that time.
- By comparison, California’s population in 1964 stood at about 18 million people. That year, California was the most populous state. Today, California has about 39 million people, and remains number one in population ranking. Its population has more than doubled since 1964.
One more point: the fastest growing cities by population in Michigan are Dearborn and Dearborn Heights. That is because those cities have a high concentration of immigrants. Michigan needs immigrants more than ever. All of us work daily to make that happen. Our law firm is turning undocumented immigrants into documented ones by navigating our often convoluted immigration laws to gain legal status for our clients.
Our state needs immigrants as much as any state, yet some of our laws have stood in the way. We need to do better with immigrants. A first modest, but important, step will be to restore the right of all Michigan residents to a driver license, regardless of their immigration status, a matter on which only the Federal Government has authority. Restoring the right to seek a driver license to all Michigan residents will enhance the safety and prosperity of our state, and the potential for a better future for all. If we help all immigrants residing in Michigan by making it possible for them to go about their daily tasks without the fear of being stopped by the police and charged with the crime of driving without a license, all of us will benefit.