Iowa DOT denies undocumented immigrants from driver's licenses - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa DOT denies undocumented immigrants of driver's licenses, immigrant advocates criticize decision


The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) will not issue driver's licenses or non-operator identification (ID) cards to undocumented immigrants protected by the "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" status. 

In June, President Obama launched the federal initiative called "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" which reached out to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. The deferred status provides eligible immigrants with a permit to live and work in the U.S. without getting deported.

On Thursday, the Iowa DOT said people with deferred status will not be issued an Iowa driver's license or ID card unless they can prove they are citizens.

"It's a shock that the state is not allowing them to get a driver's license," said Julia Aguilar of Waterloo. Aguilar immigrated to Iowa from Spain in 2003.

Now she helps immigrants, most of them undocumented, adjust to living in Black Hawk County.  

"If you're not allowing for these kids to be able to get a driver's license, you're really making it very hard for them to be able to work, to be able to go to school," she said.

Aguilar said she thinks most people would rather have people driving with licenses than without.

"It's not a fair shot that they would not allow them to be able to get a driver's license," she said.

Alexander Espinoza of Waterloo knows firsthand how difficult it is for an immigrant to obtain a driver's license in the U.S.

"I was so happy, I guess I'm more secure because I got more responsibility," said Espinoza who immigrated to the U.S. from Nicaragua when he was 15 years old.

Espinoza said he graduated high school and obtained his driver's license when he was 21 years old.

"It made me feel more legal," he said.

He said he understands the controversy behind allowing undocumented immigrants to get behind the wheel, but he doesn't agree with the DOT's ruling, especially because the ruling impacts primarily young immigrants who were brought here.

"It's like a punishment," he said.

"If you come here when you're an adult, you have a choice to be here or go back. But the kids...they don't have a choice," he said.

Director of the Iowa DOT Paul Trombino said he knows of at least two undocumented immigrants who obtained an Iowa license or ID card since President Obama's policy change in June.

"We'll basically provide notice and let them know that their driver's license and ID card are really no longer valid because we issued them essentially something we couldn't do under Iowa code," Trombino said in a phone conversation on Friday.

"We'll just basically ask them to surrender those," he added.

Trombino said licensing and ID cards are issues that fall under the jurisdiction of each state.

"Homeland Security's policy on the 'Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals' does not address or control licensing or ID decisions," he said.

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