South Bend Common Council prepare to discuss "drivers card" for undocumented immigrants

NOW: South Bend Common Council prepare to discuss “drivers card“ for undocumented immigrants

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- One South Bend Common Council member is standing up for undocumented residents with a new resolution. The proposal which was created with the hope of initiating a movement in support of a state-wide bill could provide undocumented immigrants with the opportunity to legally obtain drivers licenses.

According to La Casa de Amistad, there are 11,000 undocumented immigrants in South Bend.

“As a dreamer myself and before having DACA I would’ve never had access to a drivers license in high school, but if I needed to get to school or to a clinic or my parents couldn’t take me that’s a huge barrier," said Juan Constantino, Executive Director of La Casa de Amistad.

Constantino came to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant seeking a better life. Despite working hard to build a future for himself, he says it was difficult to achieve success because of barriers like not being able to have a driver’s license.

It’s something common council member Shiela Niezgodski is hoping to change with a new driver’s card resolution.

“They’ll be certified and trained on how to drive a vehicle and to get proper insurance. Anyone can buy a vehicle. You can purchase a car or a truck. Undocumented immigrants just can’t drive them and insure them. So to me the big thing is it’s a safety issue," said Niezgodski.

Niezgodski was approached by several local parishes and the Notre Dame Student Policy Network. They published a driver’s card privilege study back in November.

“This will probably bring down the hit and runs that people regardless of who’s fault it is are fleeing the accident because they’re not insured. And in the state coffers you have people that will be paying into the state and they’ll, the revenue is just going to increase significantly," said Niezgodski.

If passed at the state level, the cards could not be used for voting purposes and those applying would need to provide proof of residency through an individual taxpayer identification number. And while the resolution would not make any immediate changes if passed come Monday, Constantino says its the first step in the right direction.

“It’s a statewide issue. So we need more advocates behind that line so that when we go down to the state of Indiana and advocate for our families in Indianapolis that we can get some traction and support to pass drivers license for everyone," said Constantino.

Niezgodski says other neighboring cities like Elkhart, are also planning to adopt similar resolutions before taking them to the state level ahead of legislative sessions next year.

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