The State of California has gone on record stating that it will issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants who qualify for consideration of deferred action, the Mercury News reports. The State of Arizona is taking an opposite position.
Who made this statement?
The publication quotes California DMV spokesperson Mike Marando as the authority on the subject.
Is California one of the states that already offers driver's licenses to illegal immigrants?
California does not issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. States that offer them include New Mexico, the State of Washington and Utah. "California law is not changing. ... However those applicants approved by (the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) will become temporary legal residents," the DMV spokesperson explains.
Have states gone on record saying they will not issue driver's licenses?
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order, barring deferred action filers from receiving state driver's licenses. In support of her position, she notes, "the USCIS has confirmed that the Deferred Action program does not and cannot confer lawful or authorized status or presence upon the unlawful alien applicants." Brewer reasons that while the deferred action filers may not warrant deportation, they do not qualify for any state benefits reserved for legal residents.
Does the deferred action program temporarily legalize illegal immigrants?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) parses the definition of "unlawful presence" and "unlawful status." Qualifying for deferred action "does not confer any lawful status," the agency notes. It does, however, halt the accrual of unlawful presence time, even as it "does not change whether you are in lawful status while you remain in the United States." USCIS goes on to warn deferred action filers that they "remain subject to all legal restrictions and prohibitions on individuals in unlawful status."
Who is correct: California or Arizona?
California officials may point to the Real ID Act of 2005, as published by the U.S. Government Printing Office, which recognizes approved deferred action status as "evidence of lawful status" that satisfies state requirements for issuing driver's licenses or ID cards. Yet as noted by InfoWorld in 2008, Arizona -- as well as Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Washington -- already noted that they would not participate in the Real ID program.
What happens next?
There is a good chance that immigrants' rights groups in Arizona will file suit. Since the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants is a hot button topic in California as well -- as noted by the L.A. Times, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck received a lot of criticism for his opinion that issuing these licenses "would make roads safer" -- there is a possibility that in this state, too, a suit will be filed.
Sylvia Cochran offers an insider's perspective of the American immigration system. Having gone through the steps of becoming a citizen -- and currently living in a border state -- she brings hands-on familiarity with hot-button issues to the table.