At first, state and federal policies aimed at better supporting Michigan immigrants may not seem particularly relevant to the Alpena area.
But new research from the Michigan League for Public Policy shows that 684,000 immigrants live, study, work, and raise families here in Michigan, and that immigrants make up a present and significant portion of every county’s population.
The League recently released updated factsheets on immigrants to Michigan and each county, which are available at mlpp.org/geographicfactsheets. These snapshots include demographics, breakdowns by immigration status, and changes in those numbers over the past decade for each of the state’s 83 counties.
Additionally, the fact sheets provide a breakdown of the region of origin, which shows the breadth and diversity of immigrant communities that exist not only in the state, but also in every county – including yours. .
In Alpena County, the total immigrant population was 362 residents in 2019, the most recent year of data available. For the same year, 178 immigrants lived in Presque Isle County, 112 immigrants lived in Alcona County, and 98 immigrants lived in Montmorency County. Of those 750 immigrant residents who call home in northeast Michigan, about half were non-citizens – lawful permanent residents (“green card” holders), visa holders, undocumented residents, refugees and asylum seekers.
As a data-driven and policy-driven organization, the League works to connect state-wide and local data with related policy recommendations to better support all Michiganders and improve our economy. Policies that explicitly include residents who were not born in the United States and remove the additional barriers they face have the potential to impact communities statewide, including in the Northeast. Michigan.
An important policy recommendation in the League’s immigrant fact sheets that would benefit residents of the region is the restoration of driver’s licenses and identification documents for all immigrants, regardless of their citizenship status. And this policy is particularly relevant, as legislation in both the State House and the State Senate was just announced this week to restore driver’s licenses and state IDs for immigrants. undocumented and some visa holders – a right they had until 2008.
The bills are sponsored by State Representatives Padma Kuppa and Rachel Hood, and State Senators Stephanie Chang and Winnie Brinks, respectively.
But the passage of this legislation is not just about the hundreds of immigrants in the Alpena region or the hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the state who would be directly affected. Restoring driver’s licenses for immigrants would have far-reaching benefits for all Michiganders and for our economy as a whole.
By allowing more immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, Michigan would see more insured drivers, lower auto insurance costs, and safer roads. Under the law, around 20,000 more Michiganders would buy a new car, which they would insure and register with the Secretary of State. More vehicles insured could lower auto insurance costs for everyone on the road.
The proposal would also allow more residents to participate in Michigan’s local economies.
Undocumented immigrants in Michigan hold $ 2.5 billion in purchasing power, and this economic impact would be greatly expanded by improving the ability of these residents to travel within the state. Allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license would also help Michigan’s booming agriculture industry, in particular.
The legislation could also be a boon to the state budget. The reinstatement of driver’s licenses for immigrant residents would increase state revenue by $ 13.5 million in the first three years and contribute $ 12 million in recurring revenue. Over a 10-year period, the policy would generate nearly $ 100 million for the state of Michigan.
By restoring driver’s license access to immigrants, Michigan law can better support business owners, parents, professionals, essential workers, and caregivers who are a key part of our communities. And it would allow more residents to participate more fully in our state economy and to carry out daily tasks with dignity and without fear.
The legislation has a diverse group of supporters, including immigrants and policy advocates, law enforcement officials, farmers and small business owners, and members of the religious community.
With the announcement of the new legislation this week, advocacy work in the Michigan Legislature begins. We hope you will join us in supporting this common sense legislation, and you can visit drivemichiganforward.com to learn more and get involved.
Alex Rossman is director of external affairs and Simon Marshall-Shah is state policy researcher at the Michigan League for Public Policy.