The Department of Homeland Security published updated guidelines for the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that say illegal aliens who receive deferred action are “lawfully present” in the United States but do not have “lawful status.” The new statement is meant to influence the debate over whether such illegal aliens can access driver’s licenses or benefits such as in-state tuition under state laws that require legal presence.
In Arizona, where Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order denying driver’s licenses to DACA recipients, officials are weighing a response. “The governor and her legal team are reviewing this latest guidance from the federal government and are trying to determine the best path forward for the State of Arizona,” said a Brewer’s spokesman. Arizona’s law require residents to prove their presence in the United States is “authorized under federal law” in order to be eligible for driver’s licenses. Other states have similar requirements.
The updated guidelines say “An individual who has received deferred action is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to be present in the United States, and is therefore considered by DHS to be lawfully present during the period deferred action is in effect. However, deferred action does not confer lawful status upon an individual, nor does it excuse any previous or subsequent periods of unlawful presence.” The announcement also said there is no legal difference between deferred action granted under DACA and that granted in the past.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other pro-illegal alien groups filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of deferred-action recipients who were denied driver’s licenses under Brewer’s executive order. The new guidelines may aid that lawsuit and one the ACLU brought against the State of Michigan, which also denied DACA recipients driver’s licenses. Other states that have denied licenses could be affected, including Iowa, Nebraska, and Mississippi. Plus, the guidelines could influence the coming debate in the state legislatures.
As of Friday, 407,899 people had applied for DACA, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and 154,404 applications were approved. That’s a 50 percent increase over the previous month.