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Iowa Dept. of Transportation grants licenses to young immigrant 'DREAMers'

BY JONATHAN SOLIS | JANUARY 24, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa Department of Transportation announced Wednesday it would immediately begin issuing state driver’s licenses and state IDs to young immigrants granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival status.

DOT officials said this decision comes after reviewing guidance published last week by the Department of Homeland Security.

“An individual who has received deferred action is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to be present in the United States,” the Department of Homeland Security’s website stated. 
Some locals said they are excited that Iowa DOT reconsidered its stance.

“I’m very happy to hear that, and I’m really glad that it has changed its decision, and I think it’s a big step forward,” said Veronica Guevara, a member of the University of Iowa Association of Latinos Moving Ahead.

Deferred action is not citizenship, but it relieves the person from fear of deportation and grants access to a Social Security number, and in most states, the right to apply for a driver’s license. This is because of legislation referred to as the DREAM Act, giving those individuals the common name “DREAMers.”

President Obama announced in June that the administration would grant deferred action to those qualified by the DREAM Act legislation. Some of these qualifications include attending high school or graduating, being free of significant misdemeanors or felonies, and having grown up in the United States.  

However, since Congress has not officially voted for the act, it exists only as an executive order, meaning states have the right to ignore parts, or all, of the order. Last month, the DOT said that under Iowa law, people who were granted deferred action under Obama’s order would not be given driver’s licenses.

Iowa was one of four states to ignore the order in December until Wednesday.  According to a press release, DOT Director Paul Trombino maintained that DREAMers were “not authorized to be here” as late as December.

According to a DOT press release, today’s decision comes after the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Homeland Security issued changed guidance on Jan. 18.

The reversed decision also comes after many months of protest from civil-rights groups. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa wrote Trombino in December asking the DOT to reconsider its stance.

“They’re here legally, they have to drive, especially in this weather, it only has a positive impact on our society,” said Veronica Fowler, the communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Gov. Terry Branstad expressed support of the decision; however, he believed the issue should be decided legislatively, Fowler said.

Only Michigan, Nebraska, and Arizona now continue to decline licenses to these young people.

Jessica Padilla, president of the UI Association of Latinos Moving Ahead, believes granting licenses is a positive change.

“I personally have friends who are DREAMers, and they are happy that they can work and come out of the shadows, but they can’t be expected to walk everywhere,” she said.


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