Panel drops plan for controversial marking on licenses

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — A Michigan House committee on Tuesday dropped a controversial proposal for visually marking the driver’s licenses of temporary residents, while it unanimously approved a pair of bills requiring that the status of a temporary resident or immigrant be indicated on a driver’s license or state identification.

The bills would require that the duration of a person’s license or state ID extend no further than his or her legal presence in the U.S. and would write into law the Secretary of State’s current practice of issuing limited-term licenses, a practice that dates back to 2013, said Fred Woodhams, a Secretary of State spokesman.

Essentially, the bills allow for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to issue limited-term licenses to people living temporarily in the United States. The licenses expire on the date the person’s legal status in the country expires and are marked with a small “LT.”

Before the bills’ passage in committee, lawmakers rejected a controversial provision in the bills that would have required a visual marking indicating a person is no longer legally present the day his or her license or ID expires.

Susan Reed, managing attorney for Michigan Immigrants Rights Center, said the proposed language was problematic and inaccurate because it failed to take into account that people who have applied to renew or received renewal of their licenses or IDs may be waiting on verification or reverification delays.

Reed said her group corresponded with the Secretary of State and the bills’ Republican sponsors to address the concerns. Now that the “visual marking” language is out of the bill, the immigrants rights group is neutral on the bill.

“The legislative process really worked here,” Reed said.

State Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, said the bills would simplify identification procedures for both immigrants and law enforcement.

“It’s one of those common sense, clarifying pieces of legislation,” Cole said after the bill passed through the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which he chairs.

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