Runestad Detroit News op-ed: Drivers license bills would make immigration crisis worse

Runestad Detroit News op-ed: Drivers license bills would make immigration crisis worse

By Sen. Jim Runestad
23rd Senate District

Next month will mark three years since President Joe Biden took office. In that relatively brief time, we have learned a lot about how not to run a country. That is especially true with regard to immigration policy — considering some 6.2 million people have crossed our border illegally since Jan. 20, 2021, and many of them have been allowed to remain here as they pursue frivolous asylum claims.

It is not coincidental that the surge of new illegal immigration began at the same moment Biden’s presidency did. It is the direct and predictable result of policies and incentives that his administration put in place from day one.

Where these millions of new undocumented immigrants are settling once they get here is also the direct result of policies put in place by states and localities all across the country.

Undocumented immigrants are drawn to places that have adopted so-called sanctuary policies with hosts of benefits and services paid for by local taxpayers. For anyone who doubts that connection, I present New York, where Democratic Mayor Eric Adams is lamenting his city’s destruction under the weight of the immigration crisis, as Exhibit A.

But here in Michigan, Democrats are taking radical steps to encourage illegal immigration. One of the key factors undocumented immigrants consider when they decide where they will take up residence is whether a state offers them driver’s licenses.

A driver’s license not only provides mobility, but it has become the de facto identification document that most people use for a variety of purposes. In short, it makes living in the United States illegally a whole lot easier.

Legislation introduced by state Rep. Abraham Aiyash, D-Hamtramck, and co-sponsored by 28 lawmakers, would grant undocumented immigrants Michigan driver’s licenses and a companion bill would offer a state ID card to those who don’t drive.

House Bill 4410 would amend our state’s current law requiring that applicants demonstrate they are “legally present in the United States.” The bill states explicitly that “the citizenship or immigration status of an individual must not be considered in determining whether the individual is a resident of this state.” Senate Bills 265-267, sponsored by fifteen Democrats in the state Senate, seek to accomplish the same.

Michigan taxpayers are already on the hook for more than $1.1 billion a year to provide benefits and services such as education, health care, and other assistance to undocumented immigrants and their dependents. The last thing our state needs is new incentives like HB 4410 to draw more of them here.

Costs are not the only consideration. Since this bill was first introduced in April, the world has become a much more dangerous place. FBI Director Christopher Wray recently testified before Congress that the risk of terrorism against the United States has reached a “whole other level,” while the Iranian regime has issued explicit threats that we are in their crosshairs.

Last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered a record number of people on the terror watchlist attempting to enter our country. Those are only the ones we know about.

Since President Biden took office, some 1.7 million people are known to have crossed our borders illegally but were not encountered or apprehended. We have every reason to assume that among those folks, there are people who pose a threat to our national security.

In spite of the mounting costs and security risks, the Biden administration is showing no inclination to secure our borders or deter continued mass illegal immigration. And, instead of calling upon them to secure the border, cut down on fentanyl crossings, or encourage a lawful border of any kind, Michigan Democrats are trying to make the crisis even worse.

As undocumented immigrants continue to arrive in record numbers, they will continue to seek out places that offer the most favorable conditions. Enacting a bill that grants them driver’s licenses amounts to an engraved invitation for them to settle in Michigan.

This op-ed appeared in the Dec. 8, 2023 edition of The Detroit News. State Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, represents Michigan’s 23rd District.


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