Almost 5,000 young aspiring Americans in Iowa will soon be eligible to apply and test for a state driver’s license, as a result of petitions and grassroots activism that forced the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to reverse an earlier position.
The DOT last month claimed that Iowa law prohibited it from allowing DREAMers recognized by President Obama’s deferred action (DACA) program to apply for state driver’s licenses. But earlier this week, new USCIS guidelines clarified the “legal status” of DACA DREAMers, helping to clear away obstacles that DREAMers faced in obtaining driver’s licenses in their respective states. In Iowa yesterday, DOT Director Paul Trombino said that the new USCIS guidance had prompted the department to reverse course on its refusal and allow DREAMers to apply for licenses after all.
States like California and Florida already allow DACA-approved DREAMers to apply for driver’s licenses, and states like Illinois and New Mexico extend eligibility to all undocumented state residents. On the other foot stand states like Arizona, Nebraska, and Michigan, which have specifically barred DREAMers from eligibility to apply.
DREAMers and local activists have vowed to keep pressuring the nation’s more recalcitrant states, however. Last week, the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, with the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights organizations, filed a class-action lawsuit challenging Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s executive order to withhold driver’s licenses from DREAMers in the state.
As Lorella Praeli, Director of Advocacy and Policy at United We Dream said in a statement yesterday:
DREAMers across the country are entering the workforce and more fully contributing to society thanks to the DACA program. Members of our network were instrumental in pushing for more clarity from USCIS on this question and we’re heartened to see Iowa joining the scores of other states who’ve applied the policy as intended to provide driver’s licenses to DACA-mented DREAMers. Now it’s time for Arizona, Nebraska, and Michigan to change course and issue licenses too.