I recently wrote about
North Carolina’s controversial plan to issue driver’s licenses to deferred action recipients with the
mark “No Lawful Status.” This week, Alabama
announced that it would allow deferred action recipients to apply for driver’s
licenses starting today. The Obama administration implemented the
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last year, benefiting young undocumented immigrants who arrived as children
and meet certain
eligibility requirements.* While the Alabama licenses issued to deferred action applicants will
bear the initials “FN” for “Foreign National,”
that is the state’s standard practice for licenses granted to non-citizens.
In contrast, North Carolina’s mark of “No Lawful Status”
seeks to brand young undocumented immigrants and induce shame. With Alabama’s
decision, only two states remain that do not issue driver’s licenses
to deferred action recipients – Arizona and Nebraska. Of the two,
Arizona is facing a
class-action lawsuit on the issue from a collection of civil rights organizations, including
the American Civil Liberties Union. The judge in the Arizona case is expected
to hear arguments on March 22.
Illinois, where I live, is among the overwhelming majority of states that
issue driver’s licenses to deferred action recipients. The state
went one step further recently, signing
a law in January that allows undocumented immigrants to receive Illinois driver's licenses.
The license will be valid for three years, and will require training and
insurance. It has limits, however, because it cannot be used as identification,
for example to purchase a firearm. Backed by Democrats Governor Quinn
and Mayor Emanuel, and some of Illinois' prominent Republicans, the law was
applauded as a "common sense" approach that is to take effect in October.
*If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of deferred
action or want help determining if you are eligible, you should consult
USCIS resources and an experienced immigration attorney (private / nonprofit).