States to Re-visit Rules Regarding Driver’s Licenses and Tuition

DACA - Rules on Driver's LicensesA new Obama administration program will allow undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to avoid deportation for two years and even get work authorization in the US. The move has some wondering whether other benefits will be conferred to undocumented immigrants now. Some states, however, are tightening rules to prevent undocumented immigrants from getting any benefits. For example, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed a state order which bans state agencies from conferring state benefits and driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants – even those who qualify for the Obama program.

Other states are divided about whether those who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative will be able to get driver’s licenses. Michigan and California claim that since those who are accepted into DACA will have work permits, they will be able to driver’s licenses. Georgia and New York are still undecided about licenses.

Undocumented immigrants who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative must meet a number of qualifications. They must be under the age of 30 and must have been brought into the US before their 16th birthday. They must also have a high school or GED diploma or have served in the military. To qualify for DACA, undocumented immigrants must also be able to show that they have lived in the US for at least five years. According to experts, up to 1.7 million undocumented immigrants may be able to meet these requirements and qualify for DACA.

While DACA would give those who qualify work authorization and freedom from deportation, should it confer other rights? Arizona Governor Jan Brewer believes that DACA does not lead to permanent residency or prove legal status, meaning that it does not qualify immigrants for benefits or licenses. In fact, Brewer and others argue that DACA only defers deportation and does not mean that participants are in the country legally. Brewer further points out that offering benefits and licenses to undocumented immigrants would be costly for the state economy.

Immigrant rights advocates argue that allowing DACA participants to get driver’s licenses only makes sense, since it permits them to travel to the work that they will be authorized to get. In addition, permitting DACA participants to get a driver’s license could be beneficial for the economy, as it will mean more people spending money on driver training, licensing, and cars.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona is contemplating legal remedies that would get DACA participants driver’s licenses. According to Executive Director Alessandra Soler, Arizona and other states do permit driver’s licenses for political asylum seekers and others who have similar authorization that DACA participants would have.