DACA Recipient and Immigration Activist Juan Escalante Says DACA 2012 Now “100% Operational”
This week, by an overwhelming majority, the Nebraska unicameral legislature voted 34-10 to override the Governor’s veto of LB 623—a bill that will allow DACA recipients to obtain driver’s licenses. Nebraska is the last state to allow DACAmented youth to obtain these crucial documents.
In the America’s Voice guest blog below, Juan Escalante, DACA recipient and Florida immigration activist, explains why this is such an important policy victory for the broader immigrant community and what it means looking ahead to the 2016 election cycle. The piece is available online here and also follows below:
Earlier this week, the unicameral legislature in Nebraska passed a bill that lifted the ban on driver’s licenses for the beneficiaries of President Obama’s original DACA program. This made Nebraska the last state to take that action.
This was a significant victory for the immigrant community and its allies. Not only did the bill, known as LB623, pass with an overwhelming bipartisan majority — but it overcame a last minute gubernatorial veto, bringing Nebraska up to speed with the rest of the nation.
For some reason or another, it is victories like this one, that encapsulate the immigrant rights movement so well. Or at least a pattern within the movement.
A victory is claimed, in this case by lifting the ban on an non-issue that Republicans continue to push back on, and then, like clockwork, Republicans continue to kick and scream until they mount a roadblock that they know will eventually be circumvented.
It took almost three years for Nebraska to get to this point in time. Starting back in 2012, when former Governor Dave Heineman announced that he would follow the lead of the state of Arizona, and issued an executive order that effectively blocked DACA beneficiaries from applying for driver’s licenses:
“The state of Nebraska will continue its practice of not issuing driver’s licenses, welfare benefits or other public benefits to illegal immigrants unless specifically authorized by Nebraska statute.”
A long term delay, that not even Nebraska’s current governor, Pete Ricketts, also a Republican, could uphold.
See the issue with this?
The original DACA program allowed the federal government to distribute work authorization cards, along with social security numbers, to those who qualified. However, it remained up to the states to provide individuals with the adequate identification and driver’s licenses.
If you have not been following this particular chapter closely, you might have assumed that the roll out of DACA went by flawlessly. An assumption that would be correct, were it not for Republican governors mounting their own opposition in the only way they could – denying driver’s licenses to beneficiaries from the program.
Prior to Nebraska’s overturning its self-imposed ban, it was Arizona who led the charge by denying driver’s licenses to DACA beneficiaries. Earlier this year, a federal judge ordered the infamous “show me your papers” state to begin granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants – much to the dismay of former governor Jan Brewer.
Now that Nebraska’s LB623 is law, it marks the precise moment where the original DACA is 100% operational. Again, almost three years from when the program was first launched. Now all DACA beneficiaries can count on receiving driver’s licenses across all 50 states.
Were the roadblocks for driver’s licenses intentional? Absolutely. Stalling is the type of strategy anyone would employ when they know that they are on the losing side of an argument. And, ironically enough, it is the same strategy being used to delay the implementation of the DAPA program.
We all know that President Obama’s most recent actions on immigration, an expansion of the DACA program and DAPA, are currently caught up in a legal mess thanks to a politically charged lawsuit led by Republican governors. What a surprise!
Because of their inability to let this issue go, and their willingness to continue to demonstrate that immigration will be the defining issue of 2016, Republicans have resorted — once again — to stall the inevitable.
The recent developments from the 5th Circuit are certainly disappointment. There really is no denying that. For many, this means another delay in the relief that they thought would have been provided for them already — countless individuals who just want to contribute back to their communities.
However, if the driver’s licenses saga is any indication of what is to come – then it will be worth the wait.
We are currently experiencing some very interesting times when it comes to the fight for immigration reform. Yes, the road has been long, and we are reminded on a daily basis that we must wait yet again.
But take a look as to how far we have come! Undocumented youth in Nebraska waited three whole years to obtain a plastic card that was granted other DACA beneficiaries since day one. They organized, found solutions, and still came out on top.
The way we win DACA+ and DAPA is through our communities – by telling the same people who once sought to deny us driver’s licenses that we will not be pawns in their political stunts. The DACA+ and DAPA programs may be stalled, but you and I already know how this fight will play out.