Position Change on Driver’s Licenses for Immigrant Youth

Detroit – Today, the office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued new guidelines that dismantle Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s justification for denying driver’s licenses to students legalized under the President’s Deferred Action program.

Michigan is one of only three states, including Arizona, that currently are attempting to deny these newly legalized young people the right to drive.

Sergio Martinez, a recipient of Deferred Action and AIR member said, “DREAM students deserve the right to drive to work and school, the same as anyone else. Secretary of State Johnson denied us this right, claiming that she wanted more federal guidance. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s new guidance is clear and authoritative—there can be no more excuses from Secretary Johnson.”

The new guidance reads in part:

“However, although deferred action does not confer a lawful immigration status, your period of stay is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security while your deferred action is in effect and, for admissibility purposes, you are considered to be lawfully present in the United States during that time.

Deferred action for childhood arrivals is one form of deferred action. 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.”

The Secretary of State’s own policy states that non-citizens must present proof of “legal presence.”

Elected leaders from across Michigan requested the guidance from USCIS in December after Johnson refused to issue the licenses to beneficiaries of the new program. The leaders, including State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, pointed out that Johnson’s office was already issuing licenses to other immigrants with deferred action, and that the Secretary’s discrimination against immigrant youth may have been illegal.