1,300 driver’s licenses have been issued to young immigrants in Nebraska since it became the last state in the United States to allow these immigrants to apply following a vote on May 28th. Nebraska had previously banned driving privileges for those undocumented immigrants who had been given permission to remain in the United States via the deferred action program, with the new law coming into effect one day later on the 29th. Between 50 and 70 applications per day immediately began to be filed, according to the director of the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles, Rhonda Lahm. Almost 50% of the applicants came from the two biggest counties in the state: Douglas County (including Omaha), where 427 licenses were issued, and Lincoln and the surrounding Lancaster County, where 133 were issued. Hall County, including Grand Island, was the third-biggest source of issued licenses with 123.
President Obama announced the deferred action policy nearly three years ago, back in late 2012, giving some undocumented youths protection from deportation, a two-year work permit and a social security number. While several states claimed they would refuse to give the youths licenses, only Nebraska and Arizona actually did so, with Arizona’s law overruled in court.
Advocates say that Nebraska’s decision puts the state in line with the US as a whole. “For so many of these kids, this is the only country they’ve ever known,” says Justice for Our Neighbors deputy executive director Charles Shane Ellison. “The passage of this law has made a huge difference for them.”