July 26, 2014

ACLU appeals to Branstad over licenses for young illegal immigrants

The America Civil Liberties Union of Iowa is calling on Governor Branstad to ensure young immigrants who were brought into the United States as children can get a driver’s license. This young immigrant who lives in northeast Iowa was brought into the country when she was a toddler.

“We were brought here illegally, but not with our consent, so you’d say. Three years old, for me. My sister was one year old,” she recently said during an interview with Iowa Pubic Radio. “I wasn’t able to say, ‘Hey, mom, I don’t want to live as an illegal person in the United States for the rest of my life.’”

This past summer the federal government granted “deferred action status” to young immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought here before they were 16, who’ve stayed out of trouble and who’ve gone to school or joined the military. In late December, Iowa Department of Transportation officials ruled these young adults cannot have Iowa driver’s licenses because these young immigrants could be deported if their “deferred status” is terminated. However, before that decision the DOT did issue licenses to some young immigrants who applied for “deferred status” and got a Social Security number.

“Every day I’ve been checking the mail, to see if we might have gotten some kind of notice of our licenses being revoked,” one young immigrant told Iowa Public Radio.

On Friday afternoon the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a statement, saying this group of young adults is “considered to be lawfully present in the United States” — a statement designed to signal they are eligible for driver’s licenses. Some states are granting drivers’ licenses to these young adults, but Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan and Arizona are not. As of last Thursday the federal government had given “deferred action” status to more than 154,000 young adults who were illegally brought into the U.S. when they were children. About 5000 of them are living in Iowa.