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Articles Posted in Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented

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New Jersey’s 4th largest city, Elizabeth, is soon to become one of several municipalities in New Jersey to offer photo identification cards for the undocumented immigrant population, and other underserved members of the community such as homeless persons. On Tuesday, city council members voted unanimously to approve a city ordinance benefitting undocumented immigrants who do not have any form of photo identification. A second and final vote on the ordinance is expected next month. According to the U.S. Census nearly half of the residents of Elizabeth, New Jersey are foreign-born persons. Elizabeth is only one of many cities in New Jersey that has considered adopting a municipal identification card program. Recognizing that New Jersey is home to a large population of undocumented immigrants, various cities in New Jersey already have a municipal identity card program incorporating the undocumented immigrant population into society. New Haven, Newark, Roselle, Perth Amboy, Highland Park, Asbury Park, Trenton, and many other cities have adopted some form of municipal identification card.

The photo identification cards will provide basic information including the person’s name, date of birth, address, and an expiration date. Only persons 14 years of age or older will be able to obtain these photo identification cards. Although these cards will not be a form of federal identification, and do not confer any type of immigration benefit, or employment authorization, having access to a photo identification is very important for the undocumented immigrant population for various reasons. First, it is nearly impossible to obtain certain benefits without a valid photo identification. For example, many undocumented immigrants are unable to open a bank account, access basic government services, enter government buildings, fill prescriptions, obtain medical care, enroll in adult courses, or receive state benefits they are entitled to, but cannot receive without presenting a valid photo ID. Second, this measure will be especially important for persons who cannot obtain a driver’s license, passport, or other government issued ID by any other means. Third, because many undocumented immigrants cannot open a bank account since they do not have a form of identification, undocumented persons are often targeted as walking ATMs because they carry large amounts of cash.

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Men in a Huddle

On June 15, 2012 President Barack Obama first unveiled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative to the world. In his 2012 announcement the President divulged that the DACA initiative would allow certain undocumented individuals who came to the United States as children the opportunity to be shielded from deportation and the right to a temporary work permit. To be eligible individuals were required to meet several guidelines to receive ‘deferred action’ for a period of two years, subject to renewal. USCIS began to accept applications for the DACA initiative on August 15, 2012.

At its core, ‘deferred action’ is the use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal from the United States for a certain period of time. Although deferred action grants such deferment, it does not provide the individual lawful status and it is not a path to permanent residency.

On November 20, 2014 the President unveiled two initiatives that would expand the population eligible to obtain Deferred Action. Additionally, the President announced a new initiative called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). To be eligible for the expanded DACA program applicants were required to a) have entered the United States before the age of 16; b) demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010; and pass required background checks. The initiative would also extend the period of ‘deferred action’ and work authorization to three years rather than two years.

Similarly, parents of U.S. Citizens and LPRs would be also be eligible for deferred action and employment authorization for a three-year period if a) they could demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010 and b) pass required backgrounds checks. On February 16, 2015 just two days before applications would begin to be accepted for the expanded DACA and DAPA programs, a temporary injunction halted these programs from going into effect. The controversy that followed regarding these programs led to a federal lawsuit known as United States v. Texas which made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States. There the Supreme Court deadlocked in a 4-4 vote preventing these programs from going into effect.

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Authority of Law Statue

On April 18, 2016 the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in the lawsuit United States v. Texas, a lawsuit brought by 26 states, led by the state of Texas, challenging President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. These executive actions include the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program announced by President Obama in November of 2014. Following this announcement, the Obama administration received push back from the Republican led House of Representatives. There was also public outcry from conservatives, when President Obama announced that these programs would not only shield eligible individuals from deportation, but allow them to obtain employment authorization. In February 2015 these initiatives came to a screeching halt, when a federal district court granted these states a preliminary injunction preventing the implementation of expanded DACA and DAPA to take place. Since then, the lawsuit has moved through the courts, and now remains at the Supreme Court. On Monday April 18th eight justices heard oral arguments in the case arguing for and against these executive actions on immigration. A final decision is expected from the justices in June. The Director of Advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Greg Chen, AILA’s Legal Director Melissa Crow, and UCLA Law Professor Hiroshi Motomura weighed on what happened in the court Monday morning and what we can expect from the Court moving forward.

The experts identified 2 key issues that were discussed during Monday’s oral arguments.

The court mainly focused on:

  1. Threshold question: Whether or not the Supreme Court should consider the case in the first place. The court asked themselves if the plaintiff states have standing to sue in the first place to bring the case to the court.
  2. The Merits of the case: Whether or not the President has the authority to implement these executive actions based on the ‘Take Care’ clause of the constitution.

Greg Chen highlighted that this case is particularly important because for the first time in 20 years, we have not seen any real immigration reform from any of the three branches of government. Chen also noted that these executive actions on immigration, if implemented, would shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. States also have a huge interest in passing these executive actions for the economic and tax revenue benefits alone, since undocumented immigrants have not been able to properly abide by tax laws due to their unlawful presence in the United States.

Melissa Crow highlighted that in Court proceedings, the traditionally four ‘liberal’ justices on the bench Breyer, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan seemed to be sympathetic to the Obama administration in the questions they posed to the attorneys representing both sides in this lawsuit. Melissa noted that in order to overturn the federal injunction halting expanded DACA and DAPA, a fifth vote is required from the conservative camp either from Chief Justice Roberts or Justice Kennedy. The questions posed by the traditionally ‘conservative’ justices did not necessarily provide clues into their stance on these issues. Their questions simply showed that they were engaged in the issues and mostly focused on the issue of standing to sue.

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The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments for United States v. Texas, a lawsuit challenging the President’s executive actions on immigration, on Monday April 18th.  We have learned that attorneys representing the Republican led House of Representatives will be given 15 minutes to argue against Obama’s executive actions on immigration, included the expanded Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. This move comes after the House of Representatives voted in favor of filing a brief before the Supreme Court challenging the executive actions on immigration. The court has also authorized a group of undocumented mothers of U.S. Citizen children to speak before the Supreme Court for 10 minutes. The Obama administration is currently at a disadvantage, given that only eight Supreme Court justices will ultimately be handing down one of the most important decisions of our generation come June. Obama had hoped that the House of Representatives would hold hearings in consideration of his Supreme Court pick, Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Merrick Garland, by the time oral arguments would begin. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Republicans have refused to hold hearings in consideration of Judge Garland. It is likely that they will continue to delay hearings until the next President of the United States takes office next year.

Oral arguments on April 18th will be no more than 90 minutes long. The majority of the time will be divided by the Obama administration and attorneys representing Texas and 25 other states challenging the constitutionality of Obama’s executive actions on immigration. United States v. Texas is unique because it will finally put to rest the issue of whether or not the executive action on immigration is within the President’s constitutional powers. This case is also unique because it will be one of the few times that the Supreme Court has addressed the issue of illegal immigration and the rights of unlawful immigrants under the constitution.

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The fate of the President’s executive actions on immigration now rests in the hands of eight justices on the Supreme Court, absent Justice Antonin Scalia. The Supreme Court will begin to hear oral arguments for the case, United States v. Texas on April 18th of this year, with a final ruling expected by summertime. Nearly a year and a half ago, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration including the expanded Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, and other measures to enhance border security, prioritize deportations, and modernize the immigration system. USCIS was expected to begin accepting applications for the expanded DACA and DAPA program on February 18th. The excitement surrounding the expanded DACA and DAPA program however was very short lived. A federal court order filed by Texas and other states on February 16th temporarily suspended these programs from going into effect.

Since then, the federal government and the State of Texas have been battling one another in court. The Fifth Circuit court determined that Texas and at least 25 other states had sufficient ‘standing’ to challenge both programs from being implemented. The state of Texas along with other states, argue that these programs are not only outside the purview of the President’s constitutional power, but that the States would be substantially burdened, should the programs go into effect. Texas states that as a result of these programs, the State would suffer increased health-care, law enforcement, and educational costs which would come out of the State budget and more importantly the pockets of Texas residents, who do not take kindly to these programs. Additionally, Texas claims that it would suffer additional financial burden in having to issue more drivers’ licenses to individuals qualifying for expanded DACA and DAPA, a state-subsidized benefit. If the Supreme Court decides in favor of the federal government, nearly 5 million immigrants residing in the United States unlawfully will be shielded from deportation, and States will be forced to bear the costs to accommodate their new ‘deferred’ status. Deferred status will grant individuals the right to legally obtain employment, obtain a social security number, a driver’s license, and an education, but it is not a path to citizenship. As it stands, it is unlikely that a new Supreme Court Justice will be appointed before oral arguments begin in this case, especially with mounting political pressure from Republicans seeking to block the President from making a nomination.

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By Yingfei Zhou, Esq. 

Last week, attorneys Yingfei Zhou, Esq. and Marie Puertollano, Esq. from our office attended the 28th AILA California Chapter Conference on Immigration Law held in San Diego, California. Together, they brought our audiences the latest updates on various issues discussed at the government open forums.

  1. USCIS I-797C Receipt Notices or I-797B Approval Notices without I-94 attached are not accepted by DMV as Proof of Legal Residence

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Yesterday night, in a 2-1 vote the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to uphold the lower court’s decision in Texas v. United States blocking President Obama’s extended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs from going into effect.

The expanded DACA and new DAPA provisions were announced November of last year as part of Obama’s executive actions on immigration giving eligible undocumented individuals a legal status in the United States. The expanded DACA program would have made millions of law abiding undocumented aliens (with no criminal history) eligible for employment authorization and social security benefits. To qualify, expanded DACA applicants would need to provide documented evidence proving their continuous physical presence in the United States from January 1, 2010 onward. In exchange, the United States government would recognize these individuals as law abiding residents and safeguard them against deportation. The move was significant since it would mean that undocumented individuals would no longer need to live on the fringes of society. By granting these individuals an immigration classification, insurance companies would become accessible to them for the first time ever.

Similarly, Obama’s DAPA program would have extended eligibility of deferred action to parents of US Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents born or or before November 20, 2014 the date of the DAPA program’s announcement. As part of the application process, DAPA applicants would be required to undergo extensive background checks and prove continuous residence since January 1, 2010 among other provisions. Click here for more information on DAPA.

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Earlier this year, California DMV has started issuing AB 60 driver licenses, which are available to California residents regardless of their immigration status. This change became effective on January 1st, 2015.

AB 60 driver’s license can be used for personal identification and gives the right to legally drive in California but does not grant any other privileges. An AB 60 driver license looks the same as a regular driver’s license except for one feature. In the right corner, there is a pre-printed notation “Federal Limits Apply”.

If you want to get AB 60 driver license, you need to prove your identity and residency in the State of California, pass the knowledge tests and behind-the-wheel driving exams. In order to apply for AB 60 driver’s license, you need to make an appointment or visit DMV office.

imagePresident Obama closed off the year by announcing his highly anticipated executive action on November 20, 2014 which will go into effect early this year, but the executive action was only one of many important initiatives that occurred in 2014.

2014 was a big year for immigrants for several reasons:

  • AB 60 California Driver’s License Applicants: Beginning January 01, 2015 undocumented immigrants can start the process of obtaining their driver’s licenses under AB 60 at their local DMV field office
  • Executive Action: Beginning February 2015, eligible applicants can apply for the expanded DACA program which shields undocumented individuals from deportation who were brought to the United States illegally as children, our office will be providing you with further updates early this year
  • Beginning May 2015 eligible parents of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents can apply for deferred action thereby protecting them for deportation and allowing millions of parents to be eligible for employment authorization

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Beginning January 02, 2015 in the state of California, undocumented immigrants will be able to benefit from Assembly Bill 60, The Safe and Responsible Driver Act enacted in 2013. Beginning immediately, undocumented driver’s license applicants, will be able to schedule an appointment on or after January 02, 2015 with their local DMV by calling 1-800-777-0133, online on the California DMV website www. dmv.ca.gov, or via their smart phones on the DMV NOW iPhone and Android applications.

Applicants should make sure to comply with the following in order to obtain their ‘original’ driver’s licenses:

  • Study for the driver license exam
  • Complete a driver license application form (DL 44) available at the DMV office
  • Under AB 60, applicants will need to provide DMV with:

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