The Department of Homeland Security clarified Friday that undocumented youth who are given work permits and deportation reprieve under the deferred action program are considered to be lawfully present in the United States.
The updated guidelines posted on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website state “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.”
The guidelines go on to state that deferred action “does not confer lawful status” and it doesn’t “excuse any previous or subsequent periods of unlawful presence.”
Deferred action dreamers could possibly get driver’s licenses
Jose Penalosa, an immigration attorney in Arizona, told VOXXI these new guidelines now make it difficult for states—like Arizona, Iowa and Michigan—to deny driver’s licenses to deferred action recipients.
“Arizona is in a very difficult position now because DHS has spoken and has said these individuals do have a lawful presence in the country, and the state has to respect that,” he told VOXXI.
Arizona was the first state to announce that those who were granted deferred action would not qualify for driver’s licenses. At least five other states have followed suit.
Last year, Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order barring deferred action recipients from getting driver’s licenses in Arizona. She argued that this group of immigrants didn’t qualify to get driver’s licenses because the program didn’t say that its recipients were given a lawful status or authorization to be in the country. Under Arizona law, those who are eligible to get a driver’s license must be authorized to be in the country.
But now DHS has made it clear that the federal program does grant its beneficiaries a lawful presence and that those individuals are authorized to be in the country.
Matthew Benson, a spokesperson for Brewer, told The Arizona Republic on Friday, “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.”
Dreamers celebrate announcement of new guidelines
Dreamers from across the country celebrated the announcement of new guidelines. Members of United We Dream Network said in a statement Friday that the announcement “is a huge victory for immigration advocates, especially United We Dream, which pushed USCIS for clarification based on feedback from local groups.”
In Arizona, members of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition were also celebrating. The group joined in December a coalition of civil rights groups—including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) —to file a class-action lawsuit challenging Brewer’s driver’s license ban.
Erika Andiola, a co-founder of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, told VOXXI the new guidelines would make it easier to challenge Brewer’s ban in court, because DHS has made it clear that deferred action recipients are lawfully present in the U.S.
“This is going to make the case a lot stronger,” Andiola told VOXXI about the change in the deferred action guidelines.
Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, told VOXXI the new guidelines “reinforce what our group has been saying all along, that you cannot single out dreamers.”
“With deferred action, dreamers can get a work permit and a social security number, and it doesn’t make sense to be putting up obstacles for them to integrate into society,” Matuz added.