Identification necessary in Iowa for deferred action


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On Wednesday, the Iowa Department of Transportation determined that it was in accordance with Iowa and federal administrative regulations to grant identification to undocumented immigrants who meet the requirements of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

While this decision may come as a shock to many who heard DOT officials say only last month that it was not permissible under Iowa law to give identification to undocumented immigrants, the federal rule changed last week.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security clarified on Jan. 18 that if a person is granted deferred action, then he or she is considered to be lawfully present in the United States.

This decision will allow young people the same chance that others have to see the United States as their home and pursue opportunities. Though a driver’s license may seem insignificant, the DOT did the right thing in deciding to administer them to people with deferred action.

“I think what a lot of states, and our state for sure, just wanted to be consistent with the law,” said DOT spokesman Paul Trombino. “Immigration status and identification are a federal issue, but what it means is that we can now offer identification based on the current definition; still, that definition can change like it did on Friday.”

Throughout the nation, and in Iowa specifically, people are restricted without having some form of legal identification — for those brought to Iowa and who grew up with little proper documentation, the recent approval to grant driver’s licenses and non-operator identification offers is an immense relief.

“Most people are looking for a type of identification card,” Trombino said.  “From a broader perspective, those are utilized in day to day activities, it’s hard to get along without one.”

In June 2012, the Obama administration developed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in an effort to limit the deportation of young immigrants who meet strict criteria. First, those immigrants must have come to the United States before they were 16 and have lived here for at least five years. Those immigrants must not have been convicted of any felonies, serious misdemeanors, multiple simple misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security. Even more, students must attend high school, have graduated high school, or served in the Armed Forces, and finally, even if all these other criteria are met, the immigrant cannot be older than 30.

In Iowa, to receive a license or non-operator identification, the applicant must be considered lawfully in the United States. That was the reason that the Iowa DOT stated in December that it would not administer identification to people with deferred action.

Now that the regulation is stated more clearly, any number of Iowans could be granted their proper form of identification.

“We gave about 40 IDs throughout the state,” Trombino said. “I really don’t know how many people this could affect.”

While there is still a large amount of work to be done in immigration reform, the small steps made by offering certain members of the community licenses is at least a move in the right direction.

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