Shouts of “What do we want?” bellowed through the Michigan capitol on Wednesday as a camera crew documented the gathering just outside of the House floor.

“Driver’s licenses!” the crowd of dozens chanted in unison.

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“When do we want them,” the call and response continued. “Now!”

The rally in support of legislation to provide driver’s licenses to immigrants in Michigan illegally marked the latest in a years-long effort to pressure lawmakers on the issue.

For over a year, House bills 4410-4412 and Senate bills 265-267, known collectively as the Drive SAFE bill package, have languished in committees with no movement, despite assurances from the Democratic majority that emboldening illegal immigrants with driver’s licenses is a top priority.

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Michigan, like a significant majority of U.S. states, does not allow residents to obtain drivers’ licenses without legal proof of residency, though it has in the past.

Between 1995 and 2008, an opinion from Democratic Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley allowed illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. That changed when Republican Attorney General Mike Cox reversed the guidance.

In the years since, illegal immigrants have worked with Democratic activists to elect lawmakers who will give them what they want.

Last year, Forge Organizing credited their efforts for moving the state House to a one-seat majority for Democrats for the first time in four decades.

“The electoral organizing of undocumented Michiganders tipped the scale of power in the 38th and 103rd districts, providing Democrats with a slim, one-seat majority in the House, flipping the seats that flipped the legislature,” according to the nonprofit.

That, according to Forge, was “instrumental for changing the playing field and creating a pathway for the Drive SAFE bills to finally become law.”

The Democratic majority that took over state government in 2022 quickly vowed to make the dream a reality.

“This is the second time I’ve sponsored this legislation,” Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, said as she reintroduced the legislation last April. “Michigan has almost 700,000 immigrants contributing to our vibrant communities. These individuals come from a wide variety of backgrounds, talents and trades — before 2008, they were allowed access to receive state identification — it’s time they get this right back. It’s been 15 years too long.”

Then, it was crickets.

With no movement on the Drive SAFE bills by October, the “undocumented individuals” camped out at the legislature to protest Democrats’ inaction.

Weeks later, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission delivered a resolution urging lawmakers and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to make it happen, according to Michigan Advance.

The resolution stated “readily available access to transportation is an essential condition for maintaining a livelihood and taking advantage of opportunities, and resources for millions in Michigan, which is facilitated by acquiring a state driver’s license.”

It wasn’t until after Michigan State Police arrested Brandon Ortiz-Vite, a 25-year-old illegal immigrant with no driver’s license, for the gruesome murder of Grand Rapids’ Ruby Garcia that Democrats renewed calls for the DRIVE Safe bills.

“We must treat everyone with dignity. Everyone deserves safety and fairness. Let’s be a soft place to land,” state Rep. Emily Dievendorf, D-Kalamazoo, posted to X less than a week after the March 2024 murder. “Committed to passing necessary protections in employment and housing for agricultural and domestic workers and to support Drive Safe!”

Ortiz-Vite, who was deported by the Trump administration in 2020 before returning during the Biden administration, now faces a potential life sentence for allegedly shooting Garcia multiple times with an illegally purchased handgun then fleeing in the woman’s car.

Ortiz-Vite was wanted at the time on a warrant for driving while intoxicated, without a license.