The California State Assembly [official website] approved a bill [HB 2189, text] on Thursday that allows some illegal immigrants who came to the US as children to obtain driver's licenses. The bill, which the state Senate [official website] approved on Wednesday, directs California's Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver's licenses to people who do not have a social security number but can prove they are authorized to be in the US under federal law [Orange County Register report]. The bill justifies allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses by citing a policy directive [memorandum, PDF; JURIST report] by the Obama administration known as Deferred Action, which halts deportation proceedings against some illegal immigrants who came to the US as children:
Under existing federal law, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has issued a directive allowing certain undocumented individuals who meet several key criteria for relief from removal from the United States or from entering into removal proceedings to be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of 2 years, subject to renewal, and who will be eligible to apply for work authorization. This bill would allow persons who provide satisfactory proof, as described, that their presence in the United States is authorized under federal law ... to receive an original driver's license from the Department of Motor Vehicles if they meet all other qualifications for licensure.The bill now goes to California Governor Jerry Brown [official website], who may either sign or veto it.
Immigration laws [JURIST backgrounder] have became a hot button issue over the past few years when many states, beginning with Arizona, passed laws giving their state and local officials more power to crack down on illegal immigration. Last week Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach [official website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the Deferred Action policy directive. Two weeks ago a federal judge heard arguments [JURIST report] on whether to uphold a controversial provision of Arizona's immigration law that requires police to check the immigration status of people they stop. The provision was upheld [JURIST report] by the US Supreme Court but only on the grounds that it did not conflict with the federal government's powers regarding illegal immigration. Earlier that week the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] partially struck down [JURIST report] Alabama and Georgia's immigration laws, but upheld other provisions. Earlier in August Utah's Attorney General argued that the state's restrictive immigration law should be upheld [JURIST report] in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Arizona v. United States [opinion, PDF; JURIST report].