INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A group of undocumented immigrants is pushing to obtain driver’s licenses in Indiana by letting their voices be heard at the Indiana Statehouse.
“We do not do it because we want to break the laws but because of a need in this community,” said Eva Palapa, an undocumented immigrant.
It’s been more than 15 years since undocumented immigrants in Indiana lost any opportunity to obtain driver’s licenses. In 2007, Indiana passed a law that tied driver’s licenses, permits and vehicle registrations to citizenship and immigration status.
Year after year, they’ve fought for lawmakers to pass legislation including Senate Bill 200 and House Bill 1195 that would allow them to obtain driving cards. According to community advocate Mari Luna, these bills did not advance out of committee.
“We’ve been targeted by police because of the color that we are and then that can lead to arrest that can lead to deportation, so trying to make sure that our community is safe,” Luna said.
On Tuesday, the grassroots immigrant rights movement Movimiento Cosecha gathered at the Statehouse to let legislators know that they aren’t giving up. The group says that the thousands of undocumented immigrants in Indiana should not be afraid of driving to the grocery store or picking up their kids from school for fear of being deported.
Palapa has lived in Indiana for 20 years. “We need to go to the hospital. We need many things and in the community, for example, where I live, there is practically no public transportation. So we need to drive,” Palapa said.
The community says it’s hopeful. “We have to recognize that once we win this, which we will, it’s on to better and bigger things like permanent protection for all, so we have that larger vision in mind and larger goal and we just got to keep pushing and the community support that we receive also gives us energy,” Luna said.
“Despite not having documents. They all pay their taxes each year. So I would ask (legislators) to at least turn around to see us,” Palapa said.
Immigrants rights’ activists are asking community members to let legislators know that they support driving cards for undocumented immigrants.
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“Sen. Niezgodski and I are working to bring back our bill regarding driving cards for the 2023 legislative session. We are still in discussions on the exact language we would like to include in the bill, but I am looking forward to presenting the bill again and confident it will be considered in committee this year.”
State Sen. Blake Doriot, a Republican from Goshen
“This year, I am proud to say that the Driving Cards bill has been taken on by Senator Blake Doriot. I will be a secondary author on the bill, and remain committed to its passage through the legislature. I am proud to have carried this bill for so many years, and am extremely glad that it is being seriously discussed by the Legislature at large. Hundreds of families across the state would benefit from this bill, which would allow them to shop for groceries, visit loved ones, and go to their jobs without fear. Research shows undocumented immigrants pay taxes, are employed at high rates, and contribute to the communities they live in. We should honor those contributions and allow these citizens to safely live in the places they call home.”
State Sen. David Niezgodski, a Democrat from South Bend