INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A group of undocumented immigrants are pushing for driver’s licenses in Indiana by making their voices heard at the Indiana Statehouse.
“We don’t do it because we want to break the law, but out of a need for this community,” said Eva Palapa, an undocumented migrant.
It’s been more than 15 years since undocumented immigrants in Indiana lost any chance of getting a driver’s license. In 2007, Indiana passed a law tying driver’s licenses, permits, and vehicle registrations to citizenship and immigration status.
Year after year, they fought for lawmakers to pass laws including Senate Bill 200 and House Bill 1195 that would allow them to get driver cards. According to community advocate Mari Luna, these bills have not made it out of commission.
“We have been targeted by the police because of the color we are and therefore this can lead to arrest which can lead to deportation, so we try to make sure our community is safe,” Luna said.
The grassroots immigrant rights movement Movimiento Cosecha met at the Statehouse on Tuesday to let lawmakers know they will not give up. The group says the thousands of undocumented immigrants in Indiana shouldn’t be afraid to go grocery shopping or pick up their children from school for fear of deportation.
Palapa has lived in Indiana for 20 years. “We have to go to the hospital. We need so many things and in the community, for example, where I live, there is practically no public transport. So we have to drive,” Palapa said.
The community says it is confident. “We need to recognize that once we win this, which we will, it will move on to bigger and better things like lifelong protection for everyone, so we have a bigger vision in mind and a bigger goal and we just need to keep pushing and the The community support we receive also energizes us,” Luna said.
“Despite having no documents. Everyone pays taxes every year. So I would ask (lawmakers) to at least turn around to see us,” Palapa said.
Immigrant rights activists are calling on community members to let lawmakers know they support driver cards for undocumented immigrants.
“Sen. Niezgodski and I are working on bringing our driving card bill back for the 2023 legislative session. We are still debating the exact language we would like to include in the bill, but I look forward to reintroducing the bill. and I am confident it will be considered in committee this year.”
State Senator Blake Doriot, a Republican from Goshen
“This year, I’m proud to say that the driver’s card bill was embraced by Senator Blake Doriot. He will be a coauthor of the bill and remain committed to its passage through the Legislature. I am proud to have supported this bill for so many years and I am extremely pleased that it has been seriously discussed by the Legislature at large. Hundreds of families across the state would benefit from this bill, which would allow them to shop, visit loved ones and go to work without fear. Research shows that undocumented immigrants pay taxes, are employed at high rates, and contribute to the communities in which they live. We should honor those contributions and enable these citizens to live safely in the places they call home.”
State Senator David Niezgodski, a Democrat from South Bend