By Jude Joffe-Block
Fronteras News Desk
PHOENIX — New figures published Friday show more than 150,000 young immigrants have qualified for two-year work permits and a reprieve from deportation under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, known as DACA.
New federal guidance on the initiative may also inform the debate over whether these immigrants can get driver’s licenses in some states.
Immigrants under age 31 who were brought to the country illegally as children and meet other requirements can qualify for DACA. So far, more than 400,000 people have applied.
While a majority of states have granted driver’s licenses to those who are granted DACA status, a handful of states have said no.
These include Arizona, Michigan, Iowa and Nebraska. Last week, North Carolina’s Department of Motor Vehicles indicated it would revoke licenses that had been already issued to DACA recipients, but the Attorney General issued an opinion on Thursday saying they are in fact eligible for licenses.
Back in August, Matt Benson, a spokesman for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, explained why Brewer issued an executive order barring DACA recipients from driver’s licenses.
“Arizona law is very clear that you have to have lawful presence to receive an Arizona’s driver’s license,” Benson said.
But new federal guidance issued Friday clarifies that DACA recipients are considered to be “lawfully present” by the Department of Homeland Security.
“So if you are a state like Arizona that is making decisions on who gets a license based on that standard, the answer is now crystal clear,” said Michael Tan, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “Dreamers with DACA should be entitled for driver’s licenses. They should be in that category of eligible people…”