Mid-Michigan Hispanics appreciate new driver's license policy - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Mid-Michigan Hispanics appreciate new driver's license policy

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FLINT (WJRT) -

(02/18/13) - Undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children can apply for Michigan driver's licenses and state IDs starting Tuesday. This is good news for thousands of young people in the state who can't prove their citizenship.

"This opportunity for them is tremendous," said Victoria Arteaga, an attorney at the Hispanic Technology Center in Flint.

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Ann Johnson changed her mind about the policy affecting undocumented immigrants.

"We're looking at kids who have been here, have not been in any trouble. The ones who have been doing what they should have been doing, good teenagers," Arteaga said.

Previously, state law prohibited the Secretary of State from issuing driver's licenses to anyone who was in the country illegally. But recent changes in federal guidelines clarified that.

President Obama, last year, announced a policy letting undocumented immigrants apply for temporary work permits if they were brought to the U.S. as children. But a small number of states, including Michigan, resisted allowing those immigrants to have driver's licenses.

"If we have more licensed drivers getting insurance, with valid licenses, that's a good thing," said Carlos Cisneros, director of the Hispanic Technology Center.

"They want to be here as productive residents of this state, just like the rest of us. A lot of them before they could even talk. This is the only home they have. This is their life here in Michigan," Arteaga said.

To be eligible, immigrants must prove they arrived in the US before they turned 16, are 30 or younger, have been living in the country at least five years and are in school, have graduated or served in the military.

"Let's do it for everyone's benefit," Cisneros said.

Only Arizona and Nebraska prohibit young undocumented immigrants from receiving drivers licenses.

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