The state of Michigan introduced new House bills that are prompting fears among immigrants of increased profiling and discrimination.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the bills would require the driver’s licenses of many legal immigrants to carry a specific marking that shows the length of their immigration status.
Of course, the pair of bills was proposed by Republican lawmakers last month. State Reps. Pamela Hornberger and Beth Griffin are calling for the licenses of noncitizens to indicate when their legal status expires and for the licenses to be distinctly marked to distinguish them from others.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will reportedly consider the bills during a hearing set for Tuesday.
"I expect them to not have a great deal of resistance in committee and come out fairly quickly once we can get the hearing process over," said Republican Rep. Triston Cole, who chairs the committee that is considering the bills.
Cole is a proponent of the bills who said the legislation could help prevent undocumented immigrants from having driver’s licenses after their legal status is up.
However, immigrants are worried about being profiled, particularly amid the crackdowns on immigration urged by President Donald Trump.
An attorney for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, Anna Hill, sent a letter to Cole arguing that the new legislation would be redundant given that the Secretary of State already issues licenses for only the duration of a person’s immigration status.
"Any designation that an individual is a noncitizen or reference to a person’s legal presence, is bound to lead to discrimination, raise the potential for racial profiling, and harm public safety," Hill reportedly wrote. "This type of marking on state licenses and identifications would send a message that certain Michigan residents have second-class status that could lead landlords, banks and other businesses, as well as a wide range of public services providers, to treat noncitizen residents differently."
She went on to insist that the proposed visual markings could result in more immigrants being detained by police.
"These markings could create confusion for local law enforcement, who may take it as signal that a person lacks immigration status, or otherwise question their identity, which can lead to arrest and, in some cases, deportation," she said.
Hill pointed to another flaw with the new bills. In some situations, immigrants will have legal status, but the government computer systems won’t be updated to reflect that in a timely manner. Therefore, if the proposed bills become law, some immigrants may be given licenses that report their status incorrectly.
Neither Hornberger nor Griffin addressed the growing concerns, but Cole spoke out in defense of the bills, maintaining “these just comply with federal guidelines that ... the end date for them to be valid coincides with the end date for the immigration status."
He added: "So, it's not stopping someone from getting ... a driver's license. It just says when your immigration status is over, so is your valid state ID and your state driver's license. And if that changes, and visas are renewed, or your immigration status is extended, well, then you get another state ID and/or another driver's license."
Cole also shut down the notion that the licenses will look significantly different from regular licenses.
"There's not a lot of room for a big, visual marker on a state ID or a driver's license ... so I don't think that's going to be an issue," he said.
This effort appears more like a way to brand people as others. It's a way for everyone, especially authorities, to know who belongs and who doesn't. It's a divisive tactic to separate them from us. This is a serious problem as it leaves the door open for immigrants to be mistreated or harassed in all public spaces where they are asked to show their ID. Furthermore, it seems rather excessive.
For the sake of Michigan's immigrant population, we are crossing our fingers that these bills are struck down.
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