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Senate committee narrowly passes bill to create driving cards for undocumented immigrants

Members of Movimiento Cosecha Indiana march along the White River in Indianapolis. They are holding signs and wearing shirts with messages that include "driver's licenses for all."
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
Groups like Movimiento Cosecha Indiana have long advocated for driver's licenses for undocumented Hoosiers.

Immigrants without documentation would be able to get driving privilege cards from the state under a bill narrowly approved by a Senate committee Tuesday.

The requirements to get the new driving card would almost be the same for getting a driver’s license – undergoing training, passing a test. Except undocumented immigrants would also have to show they pay taxes in Indiana, have proof of insurance, get fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background check, and renew the card every year.

Law enforcement and local government leaders support the bill, SB 248, calling it a practical solution that will make roadways safer and help communities thrive. Richard Aguirre is the clerk-treasurer of Goshen.

“We have to acknowledge the reality that businesses and employers throughout Indiana are dependent on immigrant labor,” Aguirre said.

Business groups also spoke in favor. Rebecca Eifert Joniskan is president of the Indiana State Poultry Association. She said driving cards for undocumented immigrants helps ensure a more reliable workforce.

"Because employees are able to drive to work without fear they can be arrested for driving without a license," Joniskan said.

Robert Krouse is an Indiana egg farmer. He said Indiana can do something to help the lives of people in a tough spot.

"Or we can double down and see if we can't just find a way to keeping smacking them around," Krouse said. "I don't know what we think will change by doing that."

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The bill got pushback from senators and one member of the public who object to the state helping people who entered the country illegally.

"How are we, as a society, to set aside the rules and set aside doing the right thing?" said Sen. Jim Buck (R-Kokomo).

Indiana passed a law in 2007 which tied driver’s licenses, permits and vehicle registration to citizenship and immigration status – aligning with 2005 federal legislation.

Goshen Chief of Police Jose Miller said giving them driving cards will only help them learn traffic laws and get insurance.

“It’s not going to change the aspect that they’re here,” Miller said.

The cards could not be used as voter ID.

The measure likely has a long road ahead to becoming law. After passing the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee by a 5-4 vote, it now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.