Resource fair to help refugees, immigrants get driver’s license in Michigan

Refugees and immigrants who need help obtaining a driver’s license, buying a car and navigating auto insurance can attend a free resource fair on Wednesday.

The event — organized by the Southeast Michigan Refugee Collaborative and economic development organization Global Detroit — is intended to help new arrivals access transportation. A lack of affordable and accessible transportation is one of the main barriers people encounter when they arrive, especially as they seek jobs and services, according to the groups.

The fair will offer three workshops walking people through how to get a driver’s license by Michigan Department of State, how to purchase a vehicle by First Merchants Bank and understanding auto insurance options by the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services. Attendees can also get information about organizations, agencies and businesses that provide public and private transportation services and programs.

The driving resource fair is open to everyone, though the focus of the event is on immigrants who receive benefits from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, including refugees and asylees.

Interested individuals do not need to register for the event. The workshops will be in English and translated in Arabic, Dari and Pashto.

The event takes place in Dearborn, where a majority of the population is of Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) descent. In 2016, Michigan was the fourth largest state for refugee resettlement, taking in more than 30,000 arrivals over the previous decade, Global Detroit reported.

The number of refugees who have resettled in Michigan has increased from 1,206 in 2022 to 2,348 this year, according to the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

The state expects nearly 10,000 arrivals in Michigan next year.

After the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, hundreds of Afghans arrived in Michigan. More than 3,800 Ukrainians arrived in the state after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Last year, a new coalition launched in Detroit to help Ukrainians and Afghans find jobs, housing and transportation.

Having a driver’s license, advocates say, is crucial for immigrants to work and boost local economic growth. Michigan law does not allow people who do not have proof of legal immigration status to get a driver’s license or state ID. Democratic lawmakers have reintroduced legislation to change that by allowing undocumented immigrants and others in the state to obtain a driver’s license and state identification card.

Those whom the federal government identifies as “legally present” in the U.S., including green card holders like refugees and people with valid visas and employment authorization, can get a Michigan driver’s license, according to Michigan Legal Help.

Here are details for the driving resource fair:

When: 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Wed., Nov. 8

Where: Henry Ford College, 5101 Evergreen Rd., Dearborn, inside the Andrew Mazzara Administration Services and Conference Center (ASCC), or L building.

Parking: People are instructed to park in lot 12, according to a flyer for the event.

Free Press staff writer Arpan Lobo contributed to this report with prior reporting.

Contact Nushrat Rahman: [email protected]; 313-348-7558. Follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter: @NushratR.

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