Dan Kowalski just posted this new Michigan Attorney General opinion at Bender's and I had to read it a couple of times for it to sink in, but it looks like the AG just instructed the DMV in that state to stop issuing driver's licenses not only to unauthorized immigrants, but every one who is not a permanent resident as defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Michigan was one of the few states in the US permitting unauthorized immigrants to get driver's licenses and the media will likely focus on that important topic since the AG decision will now bar that. But it goes much further than this and it could have far reaching implications for Michigan's ability to attract global talent.

The opinion notes that Michigan law states the following:

(1) The secretary of state shall not issue a license under this act to any of the following persons:

* * *

(h) A nonresident, including, but not limited to, a foreign exchange student. [MCL 257.303(1)(h); emphasis added.]

Section 34 of the Michigan Vehicle Code, MCL 257.34, defines "nonresident" to mean "every person who is not a resident of the state."

Section 51a of the Michigan Vehicle Code, MCL 257.51a, defines "resident" as follows:

"Resident" means every person who resides in a settled or permanent home or domicile with the intention of remaining in this state. A person who obtains employment in this state is presumed to have the intention of remaining in this state. This definition shall apply to the provisions of this act only.

The Attorney General discusses this provision and reaches this conclusion:

Michigan law must be interpreted against that background of federal law when considering questions involving aliens. It would be inconsistent with that body of law to find that a person in this country illegally, who has not secured permanent alien status from the federal government, can be regarded as a permanent resident in Michigan. There is nothing in the language or history of the Michigan Vehicle Code to indicate the Legislature intended to do so.

At first I thought that the AG just simply didn't understand immigration law and would include people legally residing in Michigan. But he goes on to specifically mention foreign students as not meeting the definition so it looks like Michigan is about to take away driver's licenses for foreign executives on employment-based non-immigrant visas (Es, H-1Bs, Os, Ls, etc.) as well as individuals in asylum status and those with pending adjustment of status applications waiting on green cards. I think I'd like to be a fly on the wall of the AG when this news starts to circulate around the state of Michigan.

Maybe I'm not reading the decision correctly (it's not very well written, in my opinion). Feel free to weigh in if you have another view.