INDIANAPOLIS — An immigration rights group held a "Quinceañera" rally at the Indiana Statehouse on Wednesday after a bill that would've permitted undocumented individuals to obtain a driver's license did not advance in the 2022 legislative session.
It's been 15 years since Indiana passed a law that required residents to provide proof of legal status to obtain a driver’s license.
At the age of 15, in many Latin American cultures, a quinceanera is held to mark the passage from childhood to adulthood. The Indiana chapter of Movimiento Cosecha, Cosecha Indiana, says they wanted to demonstrate precisely how long Indiana lawmakers have kept undocumented immigrants from legally getting behind the wheel.
"Within those 15 years, a lot has happened," Wendy Catalan Ruano, who was in attendance at Wednesday's rally, told WRTV of the importance of the quinceanera demonstration.
"We experienced further, more strict, reasons for detention and reasons for incarceration. And so when an undocumented person is pulled over and they don't have a driver's license, this is another pipeline to deportation. It's another pipeline to be incarcerated," Ruano emphasized. "We're human; we deserve to be able to drive and not watch our backs when we're on the road."
Ruano, 24, has DACA, and she, like many other undocumented Hoosier families, has resided in Indiana for most of their lives.
"Our children are in schools, and our parents are either working in factories, warehouses, hospitality, and so we are contributors," Ruano said of the importance of having transportation as undocumented individuals. "We obviously have foundations built here."
Undocumented Hoosiers will have to go yet another year not able to obtain a driver's license as Senate Bill 200 did not get a hearing in the Roads and Transportation Committee at the Indiana House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 200 would've permitted Indiana residents who cannot provide proof of identity and lawful status to apply for a "driving card." The bill had several authors and co-authors, including Sen. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Goshen, and Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper.
Mari Luna, a community organizer with Movimiento Cosecha, said her organization's presence on Wednesday was to make sure "all the politicians knew how they failed the immigrant community."
"Our community has been driving in fear," Luna explained. "It's a basic necessity that our community needs, and it's not a privilege."
According to Cosecha Indiana, more than 100,000 undocumented immigrants are driving in Indiana without a license.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver's license and driving privileges.
"We are making a stand and making sure that our future kids, future generations know that this is a home and a state that they can actually feel proud about," Luna said.
WRTV did reach out to Senator Niezgodski for comment, however he was unavailable.
WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.