Driving fears

It looks like Michigan driver's licenses could get even more crowded with personal info pretty soon. Besides the added biometric data and possible radio frequency identification tag slated to adorn the card via the federal Real ID Act ("License to pry," MT, May 31), a bill fresh out of the state House of Representatives would also add a verification of citizenship.

As passed 76-27 last Thursday, House Bill 6085 stipulates that driver's licenses indicate whether the holder is a U.S. citizen or a legal alien. It's now in the state Senate's Government Operations Committee, where Senate spokesperson Ari Adler says it will receive a thorough review.

State Rep. Mary Waters (D-Detroit) opposed the bill, lecturing House members at length on it. She says that by singling them out, the state would effectively send a chilling message to such legal aliens as foreign students and workers.

"The state cannot court foreign companies while, at the same time, treating their employees like second-class citizens when they apply for a driver's license," she told her colleagues from the House floor. "This bill ... sends an unwelcoming message to those individuals in this country legally."

Waters isn't alone in her criticisms. When we called Michigan ACLU director Kary Moss, she was in the midst of writing a letter to state Senate majority leader Ken Sikkema (R-Novi) detailing her group's problems with the bill.

"We don't like it," Moss told us. "We've never identified people who are aliens. There's no reason to separate them out — they pay taxes, they contribute to society. The Supreme Court has struck down law after law trying to do that."

Bill sponsor state Rep. Chris Ward (R-Brighton), presumably hobnobbing at last week's Mackinac Policy Conference, couldn't be reached for comment. But in a press release issued by the state Republican caucus, he described his measure as giving businesses and law enforcement officials "another tool to help identify illegal aliens." He also said it'd be useful in confirming only legal citizens are voting.

We aren't sure about the identifying illegal immigrants argument — the bill actually bars them from receiving a license. As of press time, we weren't able to find out if undocumented aliens committing voter fraud is a problem in the state, but if it is, it's news to us.

Immigration lawyers aren't thrilled, either. Scott Cooper, chair of the American Immigrant Lawyers Association's Michigan chapter, let out an earful on the subject:

"They are way out on the deep end on this," he told us. "It's a cabal of socialist Republicans — they act like the old Soviet Central Committee. Why don't we just start putting 'Republican' or 'Democrat' or 'Independent' there too?"

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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