FEBRUARY 15, 2008
A new Michigan law that prohibits issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants is being legally challenged by a national group that claims residents are safer and law enforcement is more effective when all drivers have licenses, regardless of legal status.
Denying driver’s licenses to all residents who live and work in the state is also unlawful and unconstitutional, according to the 13-page lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Ingham County
The complaint asks the court to order Michigan’s Secretary of State to immediately resume issuing driver’s license to all residents, because the state’s Vehicle Code specifically defines a “resident” as a person who resides in a settled or permanent home or domicile with the intention of remaining in the state. The ACLU reminds the court that the code also says that any person who obtains employment in the state is presumed to have the intention of remaining in the state.
In December Michigan’s attorney general, Mike Cox, reversed the state’s longtime policy of granting licenses to those in the country illegally. In doing so, Cox did away with an official state measure that deemed it unconstitutional to deny driver’s licenses to illegal aliens under the mistaken interpretation that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.
Cox said he reversed that outdated policy because it would be inconsistent with federal law to regard an illegal immigrant as a permanent resident in Michigan. He wrote in a lengthy opinion that only a resident of Michigan may be issued a Michigan driver’s license and that a person who is not a lawful resident of the United States cannot be a resident of this state for purpose of obtaining a driver’s license. He also listed state and national security implications and the potential for fraud resulting from the improper issuance of a driver’s license.
Michigan’s new policy leaves Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington as the only states that do not require drivers to prove legal status in order to obtain a license. Now, like many other state and local governments trying to curb illegal immigration, Michigan’s taxpayers will get stuck with the bill of defending its law in court.
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