California Okays Driving Licenses for Deferred Actioners

In a recent response to the deferred action executive order, California lawmakers approved a bill on Thursday to allow some young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children to obtain driving licenses.

The bill, which passed the state Assembly by a 55-15 vote before being sent to the desk of Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, was introduced following the announcement of a federal program to relax deportation rules and grant some young immigrants temporary legal status in the United States.

“It is a victory for those who were brought here through no fault of their own, played by the rules, and are only asking to be included in and contribute to American society,” the bill’s sponsor, Assembly member Gilbert Cedillo, said in a statement
He added that he was confident Brown would sign it into law.

The bill’s passage marks the latest chapter in a long-running national battle over how to handle illegal immigrants that has seen California’s legislature emerge as a major proponent of integration into mainstream society of undocumented migrants who came as children.

California’s stance on the matter has been in stark contrast with other states such as Arizona that have passed laws that sought to clamp down on such immigrants. California has the largest population of undocumented immigrants in the United States, with nearly 2.6 million at the start of 2010.

The “deferred action for childhood arrivals” permits them from being removed from the United States for at least two years so long as they were younger than 16 when they came to the United States, have lived in the country since June 15, 2007, and have not been convicted of a felony. They must be at least 15 years of age and no older than 30 when they apply.

As many as 1.7 million people could qualify for the program, which enables them to apply for work permits, Social Security cards and driver’s licenses, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. But some states, such as Arizona and Nebraska, have said they would not grant benefits including driver’s licenses to “deferred action” migrants.

California’s driver’s license bill had already passed the state Senate in a 25-7 vote on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama, whose administration has aggressively deported illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds, said in June that he was moving to help this group of youth – many of them Hispanic – who have become increasingly vocal in calling for immigration relief.

Three U.S. states currently allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license: New Mexico, Utah, and Washington.

The bill follows a series of pro-immigrant measures passed by California in the current legislative session. California lawmakers have also passed an immigration bill called the “Trust Act” that would shield some illegal immigrants from status checks by local police. This bill is a reaction to the Arizona bill that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the provision granting local police to check the immigration status of a person.

Should Gov. Brown sign this bill into law granting those who qualify for deferred action the right to apply for Driver’s license, California’s roads will also be made safer by having drivers who have been tested through our driver’s tests and will increase the number of insured motorists on the road as well. This bill is a step in the right direction for this group of individuals and hopefully one that gains momentum in other states as well.