GOSHEN — Goshen City Council members Monday threw their support behind state legislation calling for the establishment of a driver card program for undocumented Indiana residents.

At their meeting, council members voted 6-0 in favor of a new resolution endorsing and urging passage of the state legislation, which is currently being put forward as Senate Bill 200.

The proposed legislation is authored by Indiana senators David Niezgodski, D-South Bend; Mark Messmer, R-Jasper; and Blake Doriot, R-Goshen..

Given that his district represents portions of Elkhart County, Doriot was present at Monday’s meeting to speak on behalf of the legislation and urge the council’s support.

“The first point I want to get across is that this ID cannot — will not — and won’t be accepted as voting ID,” Doriot said. “I hear that. I do not want that. You must be a citizen of the United States to vote, and I am firmly committed to that, and I will pull the bill if that somehow gets on there. What this does is, if you are an immigrant, and you are undocumented, you may apply for a driver’s card. This is not a license. It is a card. It is not good outside of the boundary of the state of Indiana.”

As written, SB 200 states that “an individual who is an Indiana resident and cannot provide proof of identity and lawful status in the United States may apply for a driving card learner’s permit and driving card to obtain driving privileges.”

The legislation also notes that such driving card learner’s permits or driving cards:

• May not be used for federal identification or any other federal purpose;
• Will require an individual who holds a driving card learner’s permit or driving card and operates a motor vehicle to verify and continuously maintain insurance on any motor vehicle the holder operates in the amount required by law; and
• Cannot be used by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles to disclose certain information connected to the cardholders unless presented with a lawful court order or judicial warrant.

STATEWIDE SUPPORT

“I was amazed at the extent of the support I’ve been getting,” Doriot said when speaking to the legislation’s reception around the state. “I’ve got a lot of support from the Hispanic/Latino community. I get a lot of support from the industrialists. I get a lot of support from commercial people. I got support from the insurance industry. I’ve got support from the prosecutors. I have support from several police departments.”

In order to get the card, applicants will need to present various documentation such as proof of Indiana residency, proof of employment, and proof of previous driving experience, Doriot explained.

Should an applicant be unable to prove previous driving experience, they will then be required to go through the same process as is used to obtain an Indiana driver’s license.

“You’re a student driver, and you’re treated as a student driver,” Doriot said of the process. “And after you get the 50 hours, 10 of which must be at nighttime, whatever, then you may apply for a standard driver’s card that will be treated as regular driving privileges.”

For his part, Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman noted that he, too, has long been advocating for such a driver’s card program for undocumented Indiana residents, and strongly supports SB 200.

“This is something that I’ve been working on off and on, just talking to state leaders down at the state, and then also other groups, including Clerk-Treasurer (Richard) Aguirre, since about 2016 or 2017,” Stutsman said. “And I just want to state, too, that — as well as this resolution, which Sen. Doriot has asked for some support, so we came up with the idea of a resolution — the second idea was that I would write a letter of support from mayors, and ask mayors in Indiana to sign on to it.

“We’re still gathering signatures — just started last week — but I just wanted to give you an idea that there are roughly 122 mayors in the state of Indiana, and as of this morning, I have 40 mayors that are going to be signing this letter,” he added. “I’m expecting more to come over this next week. And out of that 40 — just to show you that this is not a liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat thing — out of that 40 mayors who have agreed to sign with me, only 16 of those are Democrats.”

NUMEROUS BENEFITS


While acknowledging that not everyone in the state who is undocumented will want to sign up for the new driver’s card, Doriot noted that the primary goals of the new card include increased traffic safety through driver education, increased insurability of drivers, as well as the economic benefits resulting from the removal of barriers for workers getting to and from work in the state.

“Not everybody is going to use this — that’s fine,” Doriot said. “But when I talk to the prosecutors, when I talk to police officers, they say, ‘It gives us something.’ A police officer can do a stop, and the individual will have a driver’s card. Odds are, he’s not going to run. He’s got a driver’s card. The police officer can see that he is attempting to drive legally. He’ll have insurance. If he doesn’t have insurance, (the card is) revoked.”

Speaking to his district specifically, Doriot noted that District 12 currently boasts a Latino/Hispanic population of about 24%.

“That’s a big number,” Doriot said. “Now, the vast majority of them — and it’s getting smaller all the time — are legal citizens. But there are quite a few that are here without documentation, and they are participating in society.”

Following his presentation, Mayor Stutsman thanked Doriot for his work on SB 200.

“I think this is a big step for all the residents, our community members here in Goshen — I really appreciate this effort here,” Stutsman said. “The senator nailed it. It’s about traffic safety, insurance, economic benefits, and law enforcement having more information. So, yeah, thank you for your work on this, and we appreciate it. And I agree with you that these should not be turned into anything for use of voting.”

Council member Julia King, D-At Large, shared her input as well.

“I think this makes a lot of sense,” King said. “I can’t imagine why we don’t want people on our roads being skilled drivers, and insured.”

Clerk-Treasurer Aguirre offered a similar sentiment in voicing his support for the legislation.

“It’s really wonderful to see an issue that’s not being put on partisan terms, but that’s being put on human terms to help people who live in Goshen, and who are just trying to make a living,” Aguirre said. “I think this is a very encouraging thing.”

The council’s members agreed, and a motion to approve the resolution supporting the driver’s card legislation was passed in a vote of 6-0 in favor.

A MATTER OF TRUST

Following Monday’s vote, Mayor Stutsman acknowledged that should it eventually be implemented by the state, participation in the new driver’s card program will require a lot of trust on the part of those undocumented residents who ultimately sign up for the service.

“The advocates that I’ve talked to from the grassroots side of things over the last few years, and then also some of the state officials that have been involved in this, they’ve been very upfront that some people are really going to want this, and appreciate it, and that others will have nervous tendencies of whether it’s something they want to sign up for or not,” Stutsman said. “And so, until you get the program going, and see how it operates, it’s kind of hard to know how many are actually going to jump to utilize this.”

Stutsman also noted that the federal government has been very specific about the fact that local governments have nothing to do with immigration.

“So, what we’re trying to do locally and at the state level is, we don’t have a say in immigration, but we do deal with any of the issues in our communities that the immigration laws that exist — or don’t exist — create,” Stutsman said. “So, this is our way of attempting to make things a little bit easier and better for everyone, since we don’t have a voice with the actual immigration laws.

“My hope would be that the state would design something that is safe, and that can be trusted, and I’m sure that that’s a big piece of what they’re going to want to do,” he added. “Because if it’s not safe, then there’s no reason for anybody to sign up for it, and then there’s a lot of work that didn’t result in any benefits.”
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