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).