DECEMBER 31, 2007
One of the few states in the nation that still grants driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants will finally stop doing so now that its attorney general reversed a policy stating that it’s unconstitutional to deny licenses to those in the country illegally.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox wrote in a lengthy opinion that illegal immigrants are ineligible for driver’s licenses, reversing his predecessor’s (Attorney General Frank Kelley) opinion that denying illegal aliens licenses violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.
Cox’s opinion is legally binding on state agencies and officers unless reversed by a judge and therefore driver’s license can no longer be issued to illegal aliens in Michigan. State law prohibits issuing driver’s licenses to nonresidents and Cox said he created the new policy because it would be inconsistent with federal law to regard an illegal immigrant as a permanent resident in Michigan.
He wrote 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.
The attorney general also addressed his predecessor’s constitutional violation theory by listing various federal court rulings contradicting it, including an appellate decision which Cox says leaves no doubt that a rational basis exists for denying driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.
Michigan’s new policy leaves Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington as the only states that currently do not require drivers to prove legal status in order to obtain a license. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer proposed the idea earlier this year but reneged after massive public outrage and threat of litigation from Judicial Watch.
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