April 18, 2014

Governor would sign law to give licenses to “Dreamers”

Republican Governor Terry Branstad says he’d sign a law that would grant Iowa driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought into the United States when they were children.

“I’ve indicated a willingness to, yes,” Branstad says. “But what I’ve said is it ought to be determined by state law.”

Branstad’s Department of Transportation in late December ruled the children of illegal immigrants who were brought into the country when they were 16 or younger are not eligible for driver’s licenses. A Friday statement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says this group of young adults is “considered to be lawfully present” in the U.S. — a statement designed to signal they are eligible for drivers’ licenses.

“The Department of Transportation is looking at this information that Homeland Security has put out and they’re going to be reviewing that over the next few days,” Branstad says. “They just, I think, received this information via the Homeland Security website on Friday, so this is the first day back to work (because of the Martin Luther King Holiday), so the DOT will be reviewing this.”

Two key Republican legislators have criticized the DOT for refusing to issue driver’s licenses to young adults who’ve gotten “deferred action status” from the federal government. Branstad defends the action.

“Actually, I believe the Department of Transportation has a responsibility to follow Iowa law and if the legislators feel that there should be a change in the law, then they are in a position to change the law,” Branstad says.

The governor told reporters this morning it is state law that governs who is eligible for a driver’s license, not federal law. Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan and Arizona — states led by Republican governors — have denied driver’s licenses to young adults who have gotten federal papers indicating that while they were brought into the country illegally as children, they are now legally present in the United States.

This group is often referred to as “Dreamers” as a proposed “Dream Act” would have granted them citizenship.