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Undocumented immigrants pushing for driver’s cards in Indiana

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 6:04 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The drive to extend driving privileges to undocumented immigrants was supported at Monday’s meeting of the South Bend Common Council.

Some Notre Dame students have become involved in the campaign, the priest at St. Adalbert’s called it a matter of basic human rights, and the community at-large showed up Iin large numbers.

A subject that has traditionally been somewhat taboo to talk about in the Hispanic community drew a crowed near the council chamber’s capacity of 155.

While Indiana law does not allow undocumented immigrants to drive, some were quick to say it should.

“We all have different interests or reasons why we’re fighting for this card,” said one Spanish speaker through an interpreter. “In my personal situation, and for me, it’s because I have my kids that I have to travel down to Riley (Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis), to take them for appointments.”

The speaker explained that his son has one kidney and contracted meningitis.

A female Spanish speaker later addressed the council through an interpreter saying, “Perhaps you see too many people here, but there’s more, so much more. They’re working in the restaurants, I clean homes, I work in a factory, I need to transport, and I need someone to support me.”

It was suggested that the solution involves the creation of something just short of a driver’s license. Something that would not be valid for voting, but would allow undocumented individuals to be trained, certified, and insured to drive.

“The solution is the driver’s card. The driver’s record card would enable our undocumented immigrants in our community, that’s 11,000 of them, to be able to legally drive their car,” said South Bend 6th District Council Representative Sheila Niezgodski.

A study called “Safer Roads, A Stronger Indiana” found that over the first three years of issuing Indiana Driver’s Cards would bring $7.2 million in new revenue to the state, pump $68 million additional dollars into the auto insurance industry, and increase auto sales by $141 million.

“Having a driver’s card or driver’s license is really about quality of life,” said Niezgodsky, “and I don’t think that people should be penalized, and their families should be penalized, they’re living here in our community. They contribute to our community. They are part of our community.”

The council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the driver’s card, but it is non-binding—only the Indiana General Assembly has the power to create one.

In January, the debate will resume before state lawmakers.

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