Indiana panel to consider driving cards for undocumented immigrants

(Photo by Jörg Hüttenhölscher/ Dreamstime.com)

For the roughly 100,000 undocumented immigrants living in Indiana, getting a driver’s license isn’t possible.

But two Indiana lawmakers—Sen. Blake Doriot, a Republican in Goshen, and Sen. David Niezgodski, a Democrat in South Bend—are looking to change that. At their urging, an Interim Study Committee on Roads and Transportation will discuss the feasibility and potential ramifications of issuing driving cards to undocumented immigrants in three separate hearings planned next month.

While several bills to implement driving cards have been introduced over the past several years, this is the first time a legislative study committee will take up the issue.

Obtaining a driver’s license requires a valid Social Security number, something many migrant workers don’t possess. But in 16 states and the District of Columbia, lawmakers have passed legislation that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain what’s known as a driving card, allowing them to receive proper driving training and show proof-of-driving qualifications without having to show proof of lawful status in the United States. Illinois is the only Midwestern state to have such a law.

“They are people that have been in my district for 20-plus years,” said Doriot, whose 12th District is 24% Hispanic. “They’re being good citizens, they’ve stayed out of trouble, they’re families, they’re participating in the economy–and yet they’re terrified to go to their kids’ football game or soccer match.”

“This will allow them to better their well being within the state of Indiana, which they deserve every bit as much as we do,” Niezgodski said. “They want to be full and active members of our society, and this is one way of helping them to prosper with their families.”

Proponents say there are three main benefits to issuing driving cards: improving public safety, pumping money into the state’s economy and filling a worker shortage in the farming and construction industries.

Issuing driving cards to undocumented immigrants would stimulate Indiana’s economy by increasing automobile insurance companies’ revenue by $68 million over the first three years of offering driving cards, according to a report prepared by the Indiana Driving Privilege Card Project, part of the Student Policy Network at the University of Notre Dame.

The study also concluded that driving cards would make Indiana roads safer, decreasing the state’s fatal hit and run incidence rate by 3.6%.

“These are actually very conservative estimates,” said Benjamín Rascón Gracia, a political science major at the University of Notre Dame who worked on the study. “It’s showing that this bill is not in any way a cost. It’s an asset to the state to have everyone be trained, certified and insured. It’s in the state’s best interest to do so.”

The committee’s first hearing is scheduled for Sept. 7. It must make a final report with findings and recommendations to the Legislative Council by Nov. 1.

Jesusa Rivera, a community organizer in South Bend, is hopeful the committee’s work will lead to lawmakers giving driving cards a more serious look in the 2023 legislative session.

“Every single year I’m optimistic, and this year is no different,” Rivera said. “I really want it to get some traction, and hopefully people will realize why this is necessary.”

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16 thoughts on “Indiana panel to consider driving cards for undocumented immigrants

  1. Most “undocumented” have documents. They are simply expired, falsified, or stolen (defrauded).

    When an article includes a dishonest word in the very first sentence of your article, it is perfectly reasonable to presume the rest of the article is going to be spin.

    “They’re being good citizens, they’ve stayed out of trouble, they’re families, they’re participating in the economy–and yet they’re terrified to go to their kids’ football game or soccer match.”

    Quite lying Blake. Unless they were children brought here by their parents, by their very presence here they are not at all “good citizens”–they are flouting our already extremely generous immigration policy. And if you use “participating in the economy” as an excuse, it’s worth looking at whether or not you employ (i.e., exploit) a few of them with money paid under the table, as is often the case among neo-cons who champion more “undocumented” immigration.

    Ever wonder what the family of Edwin Jackson, former Indianapolis Colt now dead and buried, thinks about all those “undocumented” people maneuvering among the shadows of a perfectly reasonable legal system?

    The fact that the “study” comes out of UND and uses the word “Privilege” in its name should tell us everything about the agitators championing this position.

    1. When there is so much demand to flee the perils of many of the countries to our south, immigrants are going to make it over in search of a better life no matter what the laws or enforcement techniques are. Our current immigration laws (just like our drug laws, terror prevention policies, etc) don’t take the economics of the situation into account and that’s why they fail.

      You can correctly say that all undocumented immigrants are “criminals” just because that they broke immigration laws and other bureaucratic laws to get by as an undocumented immigrants, but it’s categorically incorrect to call them bad people. They’re just people who are trying to get by and the violent crime rate among undocumented immigrants is lower than the violent crime rate of legal immigrants and US-born citizens.

      The entire point of creating a system for undocumented immigrants to legally drive is to create a system that will allow undocumented immigrants to get proper driving education and credentials. As it stands, many undocumented immigrants drive without such things because they cannot get them, which creates a dangerous situation. Perhaps Edwin Jackson wouldn’t have died if immigrants were able to good driver’s education and legally get driver’s licenses.

      We’re not going to solve any immigration problems with 0-tolerance nonsense because, as I said earlier, it doesn’t take the economics into account. Legal US immigration demand FAR outweighs the supply of people trying to immigrate here for better living conditions. That’s why there is a thriving immigration black market/trafficking network. It’s fueled by all the people fleeing crappy situations but being unregulated, it is inherently lets some bad guys in. The harder we push against immigration, the stronger the black market will get and the more bad people will get in.

      So yeah, let’s let undocumented immigrants get driving privileges. It will make our roads much safer. And in the long term, we should ramp up legal immigrantion such as to kill these black market trafficking operations. It’s the only real solution.

    2. Yet again, never a solution from Lauren, just complaints and attacking the source. It’s so predictable.

      illegal immigrants are here, have been before, will be in the future. May as well put them on a path to citizenship with requirements for good behavior to stay in America (one DUI, see ya later) and payment of taxes on income, among other things. At least they are here and willing to work, I see lots of places that can use workers.

      What’s made America grow is people wanting to come here.

  2. If there aren’t any legal, financial, political, social, cultural, or physical consequences to [fill in the blank], [fill in the blank] will continue. [fill in the blank] will continue to greatly increase. This is yet another [fill in the blank] issue where existing laws are blatantly ignored. We need to enforce and apply consequences to the violation of the existing laws for whatever [fill in the blank] is before we can adequately assess additional needs. Both of United States and Indiana State Constitution needs to be ENFORCED….it does not need to be changed.

  3. I very good friend of mine while driving in town (Indy) was t-boned by a car driven by an uninsured, undocumented immigrant who ran through a stop sign in the middle of the day. Due to the damage to his head, he was unable to work “ever” again and eventually he died due to his injuries.
    If they are undocumented then they are illegal immigrants. We have legal immigrants that we should be helping. The legal immigrants have gone through the proper process to be here. While the undocumented immigrants have just snuck in. we should not reward them with driver’ right.
    Your dollars figure of $ 22,600,000.00 dollars per year for auto insurance is unbelievable (even if they “bundle” their insurance policy.)
    I see no pluses for the citizens of Indiana. We would only be encouraging more uninsured, undocumented immigrant, and that will cause real damage (both property and to the health) to the citizen and the legal immigrants of Indiana.

    1. You’re right, they should just keep driving illegally and uninsured, and we should just keep pretending they’re not even here.

  4. Our immigration system is dysfunctional as our laws are 30 to 50 years old. Almost nothing about any of the economies of North, Central or South America is even similar to what it was then. It’s a mess because there isn’t a perfect solution and our legislators haven’t had the gumption to tackle the problem and address it as it exists. There has to be a move to the middle and both sides can’t get all of what they want. Instead, both sides just redefine the problem as they wish it were, weaponizing it to bludgeon the other side and energize their own voters.

  5. This article and topic is a bit odd.

    First, if someone is illegally in the country, then they aren’t likely a ‘citizens’. If they are illegal, then why is the focus on letting them drive. If the intent is to let them stay here, then it seems like the focus should be on making them legal or adjusting current law to make them legal, then they could get a driver’s license the existing, legal way.

    Seems like the politicians are proposing a solution to a symptom and not addressing the problem.

    1. Good point, Brad; by definition, they aren’t citizens of the country; they are simply occupants.

      The focus on giving them any citizens’ rights before they are citizens is simply pandering to get more votes, which is currently the only play in the Democrat’s playbook.

      See also: Biden’s proposed student loan forgiveness program.

    2. Go get a learners permit. Right across the top it will say

      “Valid for driving privileges”.

      I’m not sure what you think voting had to do it with … these folks can’t vote … unless you find that treating human beings with some grace is pandering…

      Americans have a long history of hating immigrants, be they the Know-Nothing’s who hated the Irish and Germans, the Chinese Exclusion act, or the current trend to blame everything on those from Central America.

  6. God forbid we enforce our current laws.

    The illegal immigration issue continues to be a raging bonfire of trash. Liberal just throw gas in it daily.

    And now people want to give the a “driving pass” as a blessing of evading laws?

    Those who immigrated legally, follow the process, including those decades ago via Ellis Island, et. al., who built and defended our country are being spit on.

  7. An NPR report a couple weeks ago noted that worldwide, there are currently 100 million refugees on the move, and that by 2050, it’s projected there will be 200 million refugees seeking to relocate.

  8. Who employs the undocumented individuals?

    If their employment is indeed critical, let the employer take some responsibility.

    ‘Immigrant rights’ is perceived as a particularly cringeworthy term given that many did illegally cross the border. But why are the employers of these undocumented workers (now not referred to as illegal aliens) not penalized for hiring someone of undocumented status. So, one asks, for those good [undocumented] people gainfully employed for several years, paying taxes, contributing to the economy and now the parents of US citizens, what might the answer be. And, while some may be readily identified as potentially undocumented, might the same rancor be directed at those undocumented europeans who likely do not evoke any particular attention.

    Any accident is tragic. An accident is equally tragic when the perpetrator is a born and raised US citizen, without insurance and without a valid driver license — a not uncommon situation.

    Can the undocumented just simply be deported? Place all in jail (another taxpayer cost). Will their US children be sent along? Will their positions be filled immediately by valid US citizens?

    This indeed is a conundrum that requires a rational and reasonable response for those who are here. The legislature is attempting tho address this. Doing nothing is counterproductive at best.

    Those opposed should make their voices and rationale known to their representatives.

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