With the focus now shifted to the House to work on the immigration bill the Senate recently passed, it would seem like common sense that the situation for DREAMers would see some improvement since Obama instituted his own Dream Act. A recent look at the laws of some states clearly suggest otherwise.
One question came up once this policy was instituted was whether or not Dreamers should be able to apply for a driver’s license. Nearly every state has since reached the right conclusion, that Dreamers who now live here legally should be able to drive legally, too, as a straightforward matter of public safety and common sense. Some states have gone further to grant licenses to all qualified applicants regardless of immigration status. New Mexico and Washington already had such laws and were joined this year by Illinois, Oregon, Maryland, Vermont, Connecticut, Nevada and Colorado. California is considering doing the same. Utah issues a certificate to the undocumented that is valid for driving but not for identification. At least based on the actions of these states it appears that more states want to ensure that there are licensed drivers on the road that can be held accountable for anything that happens.
Arizona and Nebraska are two states that persist in keeping immigrants out of the driver’s seat, singling out Dreamers as ineligible for driver’s licenses. In Arizona, made infamous for its anti-immigrant laws, such action is all-but-official state policy. In Nebraska, Gov. Dave Heineman, said in a news release in August: “The State of Nebraska will continue its practice of not issuing driver’s licenses, welfare benefits or other public benefits to illegal immigrants unless specifically authorized by Nebraska statute.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund are among the groups that have sued both states, charging discrimination. In Nebraska’s case, Mr. Heineman is accused of having summarily changed the rules on driver’s license eligibility without proper notice or public hearings.
Mr. Heineman has stated that “policies that reward illegal behavior are not fair to those individuals that do follow the rules.” He fails to acknowledge that people who seek driver’s licenses are doing their best to follow the rules and that letting them do so is the fairest and safest thing for everyone who shares the road.
A remarkable shift in attitude is taking hold in the country, as shown by the immigration bill that passed the United States Senate with broad support last week. Americans understand that integrating immigrants is far better than forcing them to live at society’s edges. It should go without saying that licensed, insured, competent drivers are better than the other kind. Plaintiffs in Arizona and Nebraska should not have to argue the point in court because of their wrong immigration politics.