Sunday, September 16, 2012

Childhood Arrivals Granted Deferred Action Could Obtain Driver's Licenses

The recent announcement by the Department of Homeland Security that it would grant deferred action status to certain undocumented aliens who arrived in the U.S. on or before June 15, 2007 before they reached the age of 16 could make it possible for many of Indiana's undocumented aliens to obtain a driver's license. Childhood arrivals who qualify for deferred action will be granted temporary authorization to work, subject to renewal after two years. Questions have arisen since the announcement was made as to whether deferred action status will permit persons who otherwise entered the country without inspection to obtain an Indiana driver's license. Federal officials have made clear that the granting of deferred action status to a person does not equate to granting them legal status in the U.S. Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer action of an individual who is otherwise removable from the country under federal law because they entered the country without inspection and failed to depart. Deferred action also does not provide a path to permanent resident status or citizenship.

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles has posed the question to the Indiana Attorney General's Office for an official legal opinion as to whether Indiana law will permit childhood arrivals granted deferred action status to obtain a driver's license, however, a quick interpretation of Indiana's current statutory law indicates they will be allowed to obtain a driver's license. I.C. 9-24-9-2.5 requires driver's license applicants to produce documentary evidence of their legal presence in the United States. It includes citizens, permanent residents, asylees, refugees, aliens lawfully admitted as temporary residents, those holding a valid non-immigrant visa and those granted temporary protected status, among others. Subsection (9) of the statute specifically includes an applicant who "has approved deferred action status," which is the status being conferred on the qualifying childhood arrivals. Several states were quick to announce their intention to deny driver's licenses to childhood arrivals granted deferred action status, including Arizona, Nebraska and Texas. Unless the Indiana General Assembly revises the current law, childhood arrivals granted deferred action should be allowed to apply for an Indiana driver's license.

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