By executive authority President Obama recently provided young immigrant persons who are here in the country without proper documentation a path to legal presence through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Those approved for deferred action would not be deported for a period of two years and become eligible for work permits. States determine whether or not they will allow deferred action recipients to obtain a driver license. In Michigan, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (R) has decided that they are not eligible for a driver license since they are not “legally present” in the United States. The irony of this decision is that Governor Rick Snyder has promoted Michigan as an immigrant friendly state, while Secretary Johnson seems to promote Michigan as an anti-immigrant state.
This is not the first time that Secretary Johnson uses her position to play radical politics. Earlier this year, she tried to have the question “Are you a United States citizen” inserted in the form that voters have to fill when they go to the polls on Election Day. She proceeded down this path despite the fact that Governor Snyder vetoed a bill earlier this year that would have required photo IDs for voters and affirmation of citizenship. When clerks in Detroit, Dearborn and Lansing requested forms for the upcoming election without the question, contending it wasn’t legal, a situation was created in which some jurisdictions would use the question and others would not. This led the parties to U.S. District Court, where Johnson lost the case, with the judge holding that Johnson’s effort would lead to “turmoil, chaos, confusion.” Johnson’s justification for using the question was to alert noncitizens that they shouldn’t be voting and, if they do so, they will limit their chances of obtaining citizenship. The judge ruled that signs announcing the prohibition could be posted at polling places to achieve that goal.
Despite the noble intentions of Secretary Johnson, it is clear that she is playing more than just immigrant politics; her effort to use the citizenship question is part of the voter suppression tactics employed by Republicans this election year. And, her refusal to allow deferred action recipients the opportunity to obtain a driver license is part of a radical conservative agenda intended to limit the number of immigrants in Michigan.
Deferred action recipients are declared to have “legal presence” in the United States once they are approved by the U.S. Customs Inspection Service. Johnson is using her office to play partisan politics, going not only against the Governor’s immigrant initiative but also against the President’s deferred action initiative. This type of leadership is unacceptable by a Secretary of State, who is supposed to promote the Public Good. It is the absence of partisan politics in our elected offices that have made American democracy the beacon of light in the modern world. It is important that other elected leaders demonstrate integrity in the implementation of policies that will fulfill the spirit of deferred action and allow these young people, who through no fault of their own, came to this country without proper documentation. They have been part of our society, have contributed to it, and no radical politician like Secretary Johnson should oppress them on the basis of her extremist political ideology.