Law-abiding children of illegal immigrants allowed to be issued driver's licenses, IDs starting Feb. 19

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced Feb. 1 that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students would be able to apply for driver's licenses and identification cards starting Feb. 19.

The DACA program was implemented last June by President Barack Obama and is designed to protect young illegal immigrants who were brought into the United States as children by their parents from being deported if they otherwise abide by the law.

In a statement released Feb. 1 by the Secretary of State, Johnson said only individuals who are here legally will be issued driver's licenses.

"The Feds now say they consider these young people to be lawfully present while they participate in the DACA program, so we are required to issue driver's licenses and identification cards. I will continue to follow the law," Johnson said in the statement.

The National Immigration Law Center says there are 28 states, including Michigan, that list lawful presence as a driver's license requirement.

There are also 37 states, including Michigan, that require the driver's license to expire with the immigrant's authorized stay in the U.S.

Spring Lake freshman Rebecca Hochhuth thinks the program makes the system more just.

"I don't think it's fair if we denied (those people) rights because their parents broke the law," Hochhuth said. "It technically isn't the child's fault."

The new cards will be limited-term and will expire when the license holder's legal presence expires.

"I feel like it's wrong, because they weren't born here, so I don't think they should have any of our privileges," Bay City junior Rebecca Conger said. "If they want to come over here, they should do it the right way."

Essexville junior Seth Meyer said exceptions should not be made for the children of illegal immigrants.

"I feel that they should go through the same requirements that we go through as legal citizens," Meyer said. "They should apply for citizenship before they should be allowed to (get driver's licenses.)"

Vassar freshman Tim Palmer does not agree with the driver's license announcement either.

"I don't think they should receive issued licenses from us if they aren't even citizens here," Palmer said.

Johnson also said the new identification cards will help county clerks decide if a person is a qualified voter at the polls.

"This is another tool to help clerks ensure that only qualified residents cast a ballot on Election Day," Johnson said in the statement.

State driver's license requirements for immigrants vary by state.