Only three states in the Nation allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. But as young people lacking permanent status in the U.S. begin to apply to the Obama administration’s Deferred Action program questions about who’s eligible to drive are being raised.
Will Deferred Action applicants between 16-and-30-years old who are granted “temporary legal residents” status be eligible for driver’s license?
California Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman Mike Marando said the state may have to consider Deferred Action applicants as “temporary legal residents” in order to avoid the state’s license ban.
He said further state legislative or regulatory clarification may be needed to issue the licenses.
“The driver’s license law does not change, but the immigration status of the young people in the country will,” Marando said.
In February Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told the L.A. Times California should issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
“My personal belief is that they should be able to” have licenses, Beck said in an interview with the LA Times. “The reality is that all the things that we’ve done — ‘we’ being the state of California — over the last 14, 16 years have not reduced the problem one iota, haven’t reduced undocumented aliens driving without licenses. So we have to look at what we’re doing. When something doesn’t work over and over and over again, my view is that you should reexamine it to see if there is another way that makes more sense.”
Undocumented immigrants were eligible for driver licenses in California until 1993, when the Legislature passed SB 976. Gov. Pete Wilson signed the bill which required residents to provide a Social Security number and proof that their presence in California “is authorized under federal law” in order to obtain a license to drive.
Utah, Washington and New Mexico are the only states in the nation that allow residents to access driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.