Three months after the Obama administration put into effect the plan for deferred action for childhood arrivals, Michigan has joined with Nebraska and Arizona in denying driver’s licenses for people who have qualified for the program. Although DACA is supposed to help undocumented young people to study and work in the United States more easily, the lack of a driver’s license makes their efforts more complicated, according to an article by Niraj Warikoo in the Detroit Free Press recently.
Michigan’s Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson, made the decision, ordering her employees to refuse to give driver’s licenses to people with deferred action papers. Her decision could affect as many as 23,000 applicants for deferred action who are living in the state.
Officials claim that the explanation that deferred action status is not a bestowing of US citizenship by the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS was the reason for the decision. “Michigan law requires legal presence, that someone be here legally,” says Johnson’s spokeswoman, Gisgie Gendreau. “The federal government has said that DACA does not grant legal status, so we can’t issue a driver’s license or state ID to DACA participants. We rely on the feds to determine whether someone is here legally or not. We’re just following their direction.”
Immigrant advocates have expressed their disagreement with the ruling, believing that DACA status does give immigrants legal presence and arguing that the refusal to grant driver’s licenses to immigrants will not help the declining population and weak economy currently being experienced by Michigan.