INDIANAPOLIS — A bipartisan group of Indiana lawmakers wants to allow undocumented immigrants living in the Hoosier State to be able to obtain driving cards.
Lawmakers heard public input on the idea Tuesday during a summer study committee meeting.
Ben Wisser, who came to the U.S. seven years ago, welcomes the proposal.
“Sometimes it’s hard because it depends if I can go to work, I can go to the schools,” he said.
Wisser is living in Indiana undocumented, so he doesn’t have a driver’s license. He often takes rides to get around, he said, but that’s not always possible.
“Sometimes I’m scared to go out if I get a problem,” Wisser said.
State Sen. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) has pushed for several years to allow undocumented Hoosiers to obtain driving cards. They take the place of a license but have similar requirements, including training behind the wheel, passing a driving test and having car insurance.
“A good many of them probably are driving,” Niezgodski said. “So they don’t have car insurance. That’s causing our uninsured motorist insurance to go up.”
A growing number of Republicans support the measure. State Sen. Blake Doriot (R-Goshen) partnered with Niezgodski to request Tuesday’s discussion on the idea.
“The industry, especially in the Goshen area, would collapse without them because they work, they raise their families,” Doriot said.
So far, 16 other states have launched similar programs. Indiana lawmakers are looking at modeling next year’s bill after a law recently approved in Utah.
Under the proposal that’s been made in Indiana, the driving card cannot be used to drive outside the state or as ID for any other purposes, such as voting, Niezgodski and Doriot explained. Only those who have lived in Indiana for at least five years would be eligible to obtain a driving card.
State Rep. Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne) floated a requirement of citizenship classes.
“This is a privilege granted to the citizens of the great state of Indiana, and these people are not citizens,” Morris said during the meeting.
State Rep. Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie), who chairs the House Roads and Transportation committee, said his biggest concern is ensuring the driver cards can’t be used as ID to vote.
“I think what we learned was it is not a form of ID and that it can be right on the ID that it is a non-voting card,” Pressel said. “And I think that helps a lot.”
Several other lawmakers from both parties spoke in support of the proposal during this week’s meeting. It’s too early to tell if a bill will be able to move forward next session.
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