Driver cards for Indiana’s undocumented residents: Bloomington council adds to statewide local support

On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council chambers were packed so tight that the upstairs balcony had to be opened to fit everyone.

The big crowd was there for two reasons. First, the council’s meeting was the occasion when Bloomington’s human rights commission announced its annual awards. One human rights award went to Beacon, Inc. executive director Forrest Gilmore. The other award was given to the Monroe County Community School’s Corporation equity ambassadors.

The other big draw was a city council resolution in support of future state legislation to allow undocumented immigrants living in the Hoosier state to get a driver’s card—which would make it legal for them to operate a motor vehicle.

The resolution had unanimous support from the city council.

Introducing the resolution was Josefa Madgridal, who is the mayor’s chief of staff. She ticked through the basic points in support of this type of legislation, which has been passed in a dozen and a half other states.

Proponents of this kind of legislation typically frame it as a public safety issue. The idea is that if there’s a legal path to driving, even for undocumented immigrants, that means the government can at least require minimum driving skill levels and insurance.

Madrigal noted that such cards would not give anyone the right to vote. She added: “It will reduce accidents, reduce [insurance] premiums paid by licensed drivers, and promote positive relations with law enforcement by reducing the fear of traffic stops…”

When he commented in support of the resolution, councilmember Jim Sims picked up on the idea of fear. Sims said, “I do believe that the good Lord never instilled fear in us.” He added, “People who live in fear—from police interactions, from difficulty in accessing food, difficulty in accessing employment—we have to fight that.” About fear, Sims said, “That is not a natural human tendency…That is created by external forces.”

Ed Rodriguez, who is with the group La Voz Unida (The United Voice), spoke from the public mic in support of the council’s resolution. He’s working to get other city councils across the state to pass similar resolutions.

Also speaking from the public mic in support of the resolution was state senator Shelli Yoder, who could eventually vote for such state legislation, when the Indiana General Assembly convenes again early next year. Yoder, who is a Democrat, like all of Bloomington’s councilmembers, said the effort to enact driver card legislation is bi-partisan.

Yoder alluded to the fact that bills on the topic have been introduced in previous legislative sessions, including this year. She said, “Each year, we get a little closer.”

In 2022, neither SB 200 nor HB 1195 got a hearing by the committees to which they were assigned. In 2021, both of the bills that were introduced to address the issue of driver’s IDs for undocumented immigrants—HB 1138 and SB 319—also died without a committee hearing.

Earlier this year, SB 248 did get a committee hearing, and got a do-pass recommendation from its committee on a 5–4 vote. But there it died.

During the Feb. 7 senate committee hearing, Republican senator Jim Buck’s opposition was tempered by an indication that SB 248 was an improvement over similar legislation that had been introduced in previous years.

Buck said, “I have constituents that follow the rules, did the right thing. And they’re having their jobs disappear, because somebody else is taking their job that didn’t follow the rules, and didn’t do the right thing.” Buck indicated that in order for him to support the bill, a driver’s card would need to be tied in some way to the person’s pursuit of US citizenship.

Responding to a B Square question after the council’s meeting, Yoder said that she might be willing to support some provision about a commitment to US citizenship, if that is what it takes to get the bill out of the senate and over to the house—but she would need to see the details.

Yoder is more interested in seeing La Voz Unida implement its strategy of winning expressions of support from local leaders across the state, especially in places represented by senators like Buck, who cite the views of their constituents as a reason for opposing the legislation.

Buck’s District 21 in the Indiana state senate covers parts of Howard, Tipton, and Hamilton counties, and includes the city of Kokomo.

At Wednesday’s city council meeting, Rodriguez included Buck’s district as one place where La Voz Unida will be working to get the support of local leaders. He said, “Right now we’re looking at Kokomo, we’re looking at Anderson, Muncie, Frankfort.” He also named Columbus and Washington as other Indiana cities where La Voz Unida will be looking to pick up local legislative support.

13 thoughts on “Driver cards for Indiana’s undocumented residents: Bloomington council adds to statewide local support

  1. Great news. Thanks to the city council and the mayor for initiating this

  2. Just once I sure would do the proper thing and stop wasting our taxpayer money very illegal for the city to encourage to allow this to happen on our city streets. I’m a Hoosier born, raised and educated in the State of Indiana. Driving is a privilege that you earn by taking driving lessons and have a vehicle that is legal and safe to drive. Which part of the city administration is going to be responsible for their insurance protection.

    1. David Schleibaum, Apparently reading and comprehension was a little lacking when you attended school. “The idea is that if there’s a legal path to driving, even for undocumented immigrants, that means the government can at least require minimum driving skill levels and insurance.”

      1. Undocumented means Undocumented these illegal people have no citizenship rights whatsoever in our country. I’m third generation American from Germany. I had two uncles and serviced in WWII and cousins that were stationed in Vietnam. Now my son is a commissioned officer in the Air Force. So why in the hell would we want to allow this to happen in our country. Are you going to be held personally responsible for their actions.

    2. You’re descended directly from immigrants and are vehemently opposed to immigration. Cool stance, friend. You can just come out and say that you don’t like brown people if you’d prefer to save time.

      1. This is not a thing anymore about the color of your skin. It’s about following the law and the sacrifices that the vast majority of American citizens who came here because they wanted a better way of life for their families. They also fought and died for their freedom so that people who wanted to become citizens they were able to do so legally. This is why this country was created and built on legal immigration rules and regulations. This situation has been created by Biden crime family members who are responsible for ruining our country.

    3. It must be miserable existing with your worldview. I’m sorry for you. No matter what administration is in power their efforts are only the last 0.02% of a hundred+ year tragedy, that, yes, included legal immigration. Sadly, “illegal” immigration had only been made so by those who are afraid of others and as a baseline are hostile to those that don’t look like them.

      There’s a better way and it’s not what we do now. Your nationalistic hostility is genuinely a distraction from this sad saga.

  3. That was the right thing to do, for a ton of reasons, that because of decorum I will not articulate right now. But I will say that I am furious about the effect of USA policy toward our southern neighbors, say since ~1900. Reagan Death Squads stick in my gullet like a sideways chicken bone. Is anyone paying attention to El Salvador mass incarceration these days? This gang violence is a direct result of USA foreign policy, including the failed war on drugs.

  4. As an immigration attorney, I think the idea that driver’s licenses should be attached to pursuit of US Citizenship is a clear indication that the individuals do not understand the very complicated immigration process. No one would be here without documentation if they could be “legal.” Living in the shadows is hard. As Jim Sims said, undocumented immigrants live in constant fear that at any moment their lives could be torn apart. They could lose their homes, their jobs, or even their children. They live on the margins and are vulnerable to exploitation and crimes. If they could obtain status, they would. Unfortunately, our immigration system provides very few opportunities to do so. The common fallacy is that there is some direct path to citizenship. In fact, you must have lawful permanent resident status for 5 years in most cases to become a citizen, and the paths to lawful permanent resident status are very few. If you are the brother of a US Citizen, for example, and you have the bad luck of being from Mexico, you’ll wait almost 30 years for your lawful permanent resident status after your US Citizen relative files the first petition for you (of course, that’s if the US Citizen doesn’t die first, which would end your hope of getting residence) Let’s not kid ourselves that “getting US Citizenship” is an easy or straightforward process — or even an option for most of the estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants. I would encourage our leaders to not support such a requirement, as it would leave the vast majority of undocumented driver’s without the ability to get a license.

  5. The ability to drive in the US should be the same for undocumented residents as for visitors from foreign countries. They should be required to show a valid driver’s license from their country of origin, valid automobile insurance with US liability limits met, and take a driver’s test. The license issued should list country of origin, and it must state “Not Valid For Other Purposes.”

    1. Many of the undocumented immigrants today have been here for at least 10 years. They do not have and cannot obtain foreign licenses. They cannot leave the US. They are stuck here. Also, many immigrants did not drive or have cars in their countries. And if they did, having insurance is not often a requirement as it is here. I get what you are saying, but it’s misinformed. Undocumented migrants should be allowed to get licenses when they pass the test and can get insurance here. It’s for all of our protection. It should not be tied to a foreign license.

  6. Let them follow the same rules as everyone else who want to obtain a driver license, no special treatment!!

Comments are closed.