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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy


Rating: 5 votes, 4.20 average.

Well maybe I'm being a bit dramatic, but why would you establish a policy of limiting drivers licenses only to green card holders and US citizens? Legal immigrants on visas (such as H-1Bs, F-1 students, J-1s, etc.) can no longer get drivers licenses in Michigan.

So if you're a multinational corporation operating in Michigan, you need to immediately begin thinking about moving your operations to another state. And all those American workers at your plants are just going to have to deal with it. If you're a US company in Michigan and think you're going to be able to recruit top global talent, sorry folks. And if you're a premiere university planning on attracting top students, researchers and scholars, you're out of luck.

Congrats Michigan! </sarcasm off>


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  1. Beta_Mle's Avatar
    Excuse me, but isn't a drivers license supposed to be for...driving? I am an H1 Visa holder and there is no way I could live and work in a state that does not allow me to drive.

    One problem is that the drivers license has been sneakily converted to a defacto national ID. If the US people and gov't want a national ID, implement one! Meanwhile, let a drivers license do what it was supposed to do, ie regulate the competencies and skills of DRIVERS.
  2. Jose's Avatar
    This is a tragic story and will make economy slowdown more.
  3. Another voice's Avatar
    All we can do with this type of idiocy is step back and watch them collapse is the only way they will learn, one state after the other keep making the same mistakes is just a trend and they are all jumping in the van wagon, until the Federal government decides to fix the Immigration system once and for all.
  4. Nitin's Avatar
    It's interesting to me that Michigan is willing to sacrifice the safety of its motorists in this way. Even if one can drive with a driver's license from another country, it may be difficult (or more expensive) to obtain insurance.
  5. Another voice's Avatar
    May the insurance industry is not so upset after all they get to charge higher premiums for Insurance Policies.
  6. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    Michigan, which has been losing people over the last 30 years, just needs another blow when immigrants are fed up with stupidity and move where jobs are abundunt and DL are possible to get.
  7. Another voice's Avatar
    On that note I heard through reliable sources that insurance companies are using the current Immigration sentiment in the country towards immigrants to fight personal injury cases in court. The think juries are not going to award large settlements to Immigrants (specially undocumented ones) even if an auto accident is not their fault and they are really hurt and have incurred large medical expenses. Insurance industry is playing all sides of the immigration debate to make more money or keep more of what they make.
  8. john's Avatar
    I am not sure this includes legal residents on H/L/O/J etc. I dont think they really mean LPR. I presume this will be against the federal law. It is amazing to see this people still believe immigrants took their jobs instead of the failed policy of this leaders. add more fuel to the already started fire.
  9. LegalOption's Avatar
    "May the insurance industry is not so upset after all they get to charge higher premiums for Insurance Policies."

    Well, the single most important reason why we buy insurance is so that insurance industry lawyers can duke it out amongst themselves in case of a liability claim. In this case, the obvious response in the face of higher premiums is a) to drive older cars so that you don't have to bother with comprehensive coverage and b) to switch to dodgy insurers offering lower premiums and insuring drivers at state minimums.

    The average insurance company will not win from this.
  10. LegalOption's Avatar
    Hmm, I smell a business opportunity here in insuring drivers with valid licenses from foreign countries :-).
  11. legal-forever-waiting-forever's Avatar
    "I am not sure this includes legal residents on H/L/O/J etc. I dont think they really mean LPR. I presume this will be against the federal law.

    read the memo. it's as clear as can be. you need a green card to get a new driver's license. renewal rules are coming up soon, no reason theyw ill be any different.

    and...people have called the SOS' office in MI to inquire and been told "get a GC if you want a DL"
  12. Another voice's Avatar

    ridging The Gaps
    Mobile Clinic Delivers Care to Immigrants, but Challenges Are Daunting

    By Lois Wessel
    Special to The Washington Post
    Tuesday, January 22, 2008; HE01

    A42-year-old political refugee from Sierra Leone, trained as a chemist in France, recently showed up -- desperate -- at the mobile health clinic in Silver Spring where I work as a nurse practitioner. He had lost his health insurance, he explained in fluent English, after his hours had been cut at the university cafeteria where he was working as a cook and dishwasher. By the time I saw him, he had been without his diabetes medication for several months, his blood sugar was dangerously high and he was suffering from kidney damage. I got him back on his drugs, but not before sharing his frustration that his insurer could just drop him.

    Stories like this are all too common among the immigrant patients I see at the nonprofit community clinic. All are uninsured. Most have had limited preventive care, and many suffer from chronic diseases including asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes.

    Another patient, a squat middle-aged woman from Guatemala, came in wearing a food-stained apron and clutching a drug ad -- the Latin press is saturated with them -- for Botox. Did we offer this treatment? she asked, pointing to a fit young woman in the beauty magazine. I tried to break it to her gently that, for us, life-and-death needs take precedence over cosmetic procedures. But I was glad her worries about wrinkles had brought her in: She had severe high blood pressure. She left with skin lotion -- and medication and education to prevent a stroke or heart disease.

    Medical problems like these are complicated by tenuous living arrangements, limited English skills and differing cultural values. No wonder frustration and burnout are high among people who try to help. But if we don't provide care, the incidence of preventable diseases will go up -- along with the costs.

    Here, based on what I've seen, are some of the challenges we face:

    It's hard to get immigrants to take advantage of available services.

    Patients I see at "Moby," as we call our van, are often wary of clinicians like me because of language barriers, fears about their immigration status and confusion about the health system. They worry about long waits that could jeopardize their jobs.

    At the clinic, we try to build trust by hiring people fluent in Spanish (my second language), Farsi, Creole, Korean, Amharic and others, and partnering with trusted community groups. Patients learn, generally by word of mouth, that we provide care and medications on a sliding fee scale, in a language they understand and, when possible, from a medical provider from their country.

    Medication issues can complicate care.

    We all know about over-the-counter drugs; many immigrants use what I call "under-the-counter" medications. Small local grocery stores, or bodegas, sell everything from tetracycline and other antibiotics to oral contraceptives. Patients often take tetracycline for whatever ails them, and many of my female patients are taking birth control pills that they acquire without a prescription. Then they show up with symptoms that may be tied to these drugs or a variety of herbs but are hesitant to admit what they are taking until they know they can trust me.

    One young Salvadoran patient of mine who thought she had an ulcer -- but may just have had heartburn -- was taking misoprostol sent from her country. She didn't know that this ulcer-preventing drug is a component of the RU-486 regimen for medical abortions. Since she was considering having a baby, I took her off it. This is a very strong drug, I told her -- probably too strong for what she had. (She tested negative for the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers.) I gave her an over-the-counter medication and told her to stay away from spicy foods and coffee, and to sleep with lots of pillows (to reduce reflux).

    Language barriers take many forms.

    Consider mistranslation. A young Peruvian woman, being evaluated for chronic urinary tract infections, was sent to a local hospital for a "clean-catch" urine specimen. But when the written instructions, translated badly into Spanish, directed her to "pee on the bed," she left the lab without leaving a specimen. After I explained what she was supposed to do, she was so grateful that she brought me a hand-knitted cap.

    While trained medical interpreters are increasingly available, many clinics still rely on family members instead. I have seen a school-age child asked to interpret for a parent being checked for a sexually transmitted disease or to relay a cancer diagnosis to a grandparent. The law requires any organization receiving federal funds to provide interpretation to people who speak limited English. Still, clinics don't have enough bilingual staff, and many don't know that companies such as ATT provide county-subsidized phone interpretation services.

    Even when the same language is spoken, cultural descriptions of ailments and symptoms can stump clinicians. "A fire deep inside" (code for heartburn or arthritis) or "air stuck in the back" (meaning a muscle spasm) requires us to expand our thinking.

    Even telling a patient to take a drug "twice a day" isn't straightforward. It took me a while to realize that some patients were taking their medication upon waking, and their second pill with breakfast.

    Most educated health consumers can provide a basic medical history, estimate the date of their last tetanus shot or report whether their grandmother died of stomach or colon cancer. For many immigrants, though, family history is unknown because their relatives died suddenly, and there was no system to analyze the cause of death. My Dominican patients often state that a family member died of "patatu" -- it means an unknown cause.

    The poor health of many immigrant patients is aggravated by poverty.

    With the rise of obesity and its related problems, including heart disease and diabetes, I encourage my patients to maintain a low-fat, plant-based diet. Many come from countries where fresh fruit and vegetables are cheap, and processed and fast foods are expensive. When they arrive here, the situation flips and their diets often worsen.

    They sometimes tell me that eight packs of ramen noodles (high in fat and sodium) cost $1, but they cannot buy enough vegetables for a salad for that price.

    Immigrants need access to mental health, dental health and specialty services.

    Wait lists for these services are long, transportation is difficult, and appointments often conflict with work and child-care needs.

    To get prenatal care or eye exams, patients must first get a referral from us, then have their eligibility verified in another office and then wait for services elsewhere.

    One patient of mine fled Nicaragua during the Contra war and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, compounded by her concern for her teenage son, who is stationed in Iraq. So far, she has been unable to find mental health services in Spanish.
  13. R. Lawson's Avatar
    Michigan has the highest unemployment in the country - I seriously doubt that there is a shortage of willing workers in that state and a need for the H-1b or L1 visa. Detroit has taken the brunt of the negative effects of free trade and should be spared any additional pressures on their job market.

    That being said, the law is stupid. Anyone legally in this country should be able to get a license. I can't imagine Michigan deliberately drafting a law that discriminates against legal immigrants or guest workers. Are you sure that you are interpreting the law correctly?
  14. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    I wouldn't expect anything other than a pre-programmed shallow response from Roy. But consider this. Michigan ranks ninth in the nation in the number of workers hired by foreign companies. It hosts 1,000+ companies from 20+ countries.Those firms employ 205,000 Michigan residents (about one in every 15 private-sector jobs). Why would a company pick a state where its transferred executives and managers can't drive. A lot of US workers' jobs could be lost. Why does Roy hate American workers? ;-)
  15. matts's Avatar
    I looked up the MI SOS site, it does not mention that DL's are only for GC holders or citizens as they have a mention about SSN & also inelgibility for SSN (eg H4), so if they allow that that does indicate that any legal resident can apply for a driver's license
  16. paskal's Avatar
    That being said, the law is stupid. Anyone legally in this country should be able to get a license. I can't imagine Michigan deliberately drafting a law that discriminates against legal immigrants or guest workers. Are you sure that you are interpreting the law correctly?


    Read the press release and see the list of required documents. It cannot be clearer. No GC = No DL.

    your first response makes no sense. Are you advocating throwing setlled productive workers out of Michigan because it's having hard times?
    i know you do not like the corporations, but that would cause them to run too...and surely that is not your prescription for MI's ills...?
  17. paskal's Avatar
    for those who still do not believe- this is from the SEcy of State- read what she says about temporary workers below:

    State driver's license requirements now include permanent legal presence in U.S.
    Contact: (Media Contact) Kelly Chesney 517-373-2520
    Agency: Secretary of State

    JANUARY 21, 2008

    Secretary Land promotes border, document security

    First-time applicants for a Michigan driver's license or identification card must prove that they have established a permanent legal presence in the United States, under a requirement taking effect Tuesday, Jan. 22, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land announced today.

    Land's push to enhance driver's license security can now move forward due to a recent attorney general's opinion. The opinion says that under current law the state cannot issue a driver's license to anyone who is not in the country legally and permanently. Today's announcement only deals with original applications. Updated procedures for renewals will be released soon.

    "This is one more tool in our initiative to bolster Michigan's border and document security," Land said. "It also puts Michigan's procedure in line with those of most other states. The department will maintain its highest standards of customer service by sharing information with the public and working with applicants so that they understand the requirements. We all share the goal of a safer Michigan and America."

    As of Tuesday, applicants for an original driver's license or state-issued ID card must meet four standards in addition to Michigan's driving and physical health requirements by providing documentation of:

    A valid Social Security number or ineligibility for one. Applicants will have to bring their Social Security card or other acceptable document to a Secretary of State office, or a letter of ineligibility from the U.S. Social Security Administration.
    Legal and permanent presence in the United States.
    Their identity (legal name and date of birth).
    Michigan residency.
    A list of acceptable documents is at The Web site includes information on obtaining a Social Security card from the federal government.

    Land encouraged customers to make sure they have the documents necessary to complete their applications before going to a branch office.

    She added that the new policy actually complements the department's commitment to speeding up branch office service. Because fewer foreign identity documents will be accepted from applicants, employees at the counter won't be confronted with as many time-consuming transactions and can serve other customers. Documents that need additional verification will be reviewed in Lansing rather than in branch offices. In those instances a customer may be asked to visit the branch again.

    Land also pointed out that the number of original applications processed in branch offices is relatively small, accounting for less than 4 percent of all branch transactions.

    A state lawmaker recently asked Michigan's attorney general to revisit a 1995 opinion that has guided Michigan's policy to this point. The 1995 opinion said the department could not refuse to issue a license simply because the applicant was not legally in the country. The most recent opinion takes precedence over the earlier opinion.

    Land already has been working to enhance driver's license security. In December 2007 she proposed the creation of an upgraded "standard" driver's license and an optional "enhanced" version that can be used in place of a passport at the Canadian border. The plan is being considered by the Legislature.

    Her proposal would change the law to allow residents who are in the U.S. legally but temporarily to apply for an upgraded standard license.

    "Michigan has many outstanding residents who contribute greatly to our economy and society even though they're here on a temporary basis," Land said. "Businesses rely on these talented individuals as well. Under the attorney general's opinion, those who are in the country legally but on temporary student or work visas are ineligible for a Michigan license, though most still can drive using the license of their home country. We need to reconsider that aspect of the law to avoid unintended consequences for individuals or job providers. I encourage citizens to voice their support for our proposal and contact their legislators."

    Information on Land's initiative is at It is titled "The Drive for a Safer Michigan" and is found under "News and Headlines"

  18. 's Avatar
    Can someone explain how come there is the ineligibility clause for SSN. Only the some of the non immigrant visas are not entitled to SSN. All permanent residents have SSN, correct me if I am wrong
  19. R. Lawson's Avatar
    "your first response makes no sense. Are you advocating throwing setlled productive workers out of Michigan because it's having hard times?"

    It made perfect sense. The economy in Michigan is horrible and the workers there should not be forced to compete with additional workers.

    And to answer your question: No. I don't advocate throwing anyone out of Michigan - that would be a draconian measure. Strange that you would suggest such a thing.

    We are entering a recession, if we aren't already in one. The job market tea leaves indicate problems on the horizon. Now is a perfect time to provide relief to American workers, and change H-1b laws so that we are protected during rough economic cycles in the economy.

    For the record, I'm not speaking of current H-1b holders and those seeking a renewal of their visa. I am speaking of future H-1b applicants.
  20.     's Avatar
    It's the season of the
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