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Victory for Undocumented Immigrant Youth: Secretary of State Decides to Grant DACA recipients Driver Licenses

February 2, 2013

Yesterday, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson reversed her discriminatory policy that denied Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients their right to a driver license. This is a tremendous victory for our community and our allies.signs

In her announcement, Johnson tried to misconstrue the January 18 announcement United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as a “reversal” in policy, but it was always her mistake. Over 30 states have confirmed that they will issue licenses to DACA holders; Johnson was one of a select few that needed a lawsuit to change her mind.

On October 18, 2012, Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said “the Secretary of State is taking direction from the federal government as to who is and is not legally in the country,” according to MLive. “Because the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program doesn’t confer legal presence on its participants, we are not able to issue licenses or ID cards to DACA participants,” he continued. “As its name implies, the program merely defers action on the individual and doesn’t make the individual legally present in the United States.’”

The USCIS announcement clearly states that “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.” Furthermore, it asserts that “The relief an individual receives pursuant to the deferred action for childhood arrivals process is identical for immigration purposes to the relief obtained by any person who receives deferred action as an act of prosecutorial discretion.”

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson states, “The feds now say they consider these young people to be lawfully present while they participate in the DACA program, so we are required to issue driver’s licenses and identification cards. I will continue to follow the law.”

One Michigan led a call-in campaign that generated over 1,000 calls to the Secretary of State office. Also, One Michigan was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Johnson.

“This reversal will give immigrant youth the opportunity to contribute more fully to society by giving them a chance to work, go to school, and lead productive, fulfilling lives.” states Evelin Calderon, One Michigan member and DACA recipient.

This victory should be seen as the direct result of all the grassroots work to pressure the government, like phone calls, demonstrations and direct action that has been organized across the state for the past several months.

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