Undocumented workers lead struggle for Indiana drivers’ licenses

A banner reading "Licencias hoy, papeles mañana" is draped over an overpass

As of right now in the United States, only 16 states allow undocumented residents of their states to obtain driver’s licenses. Unfortunately, Indiana is not one of these states, but if Senate Bill 319 passes, our state will join the list.

About 92,000 undocumented people live in the state of Indiana. According to American Immigration Council, about 68,000 Indiana residents live with at least one undocumented family member. This is 92,000 people who have had to navigate the ongoing pandemic without any form of support from the government and this lack of support is not limited to just the pandemic.

Undocumented folks are constantly having to find ways to support themselves and their families, and they are persistently doing this in fear. This is why organizations like Cosecha Indiana are calling for undocumented Hoosiers to be granted access to driver’s licenses and permits as this will drastically reduce their constant worry and ensure they have access to opportunities that were previously hindered by mobility.

Introduced in the Indiana Senate by senators David Niezgodski and Mike Bonacek, SB 319 would permit undocumented residents to obtain driver’s licenses and permits. The purpose of this card will solely be driving; it can not be used for voting purposes or any form of federal identification.

Local organizers are calling for the Homeland Security and Transportation Committee to grant this bill a hearing. Organizer Mari Luna with Cosecha Indiana believes this bill is necessary to grant freedoms to residents that are oppressed by local, state, and federal lawmakers.

“This is a basic right and decency,” Luna said. “Lack of mobility hinders your whole life; the ruling class says it’s a privilege that we have to earn but we shouldn’t have to earn basic rights that we need to function and go about our everyday life.”

A driver’s license might seem like just another card to carry on your person, but to undocumented folks, it would mean a lot more than just that. It would mean being able to drive two minutes away from your home without living in fear of deportation, without living with the fear of never returning back to the place you now call home. It would mean more job opportunities for people which would lead to a better standard of living.

However, Representative Holli Sullivan has not committed to hearing this bill, which would ultimately remove any possibility of this bill becoming law during this session.

“Politicians are politicians. They are not for the people and this is why we do not cater to them or wait on them,” said Luna.

Party for Socialism and Liberation and ANSWER Indiana joins Cosecha Indiana in fighting racist, anti-immigration, and anti-worker policies. Stay informed with updates from Cosecha Indiana by following them on Facebook.