Denying Driver Licenses to DACA Recipients

CURRENT STATUS: In March of 2013, this bill was placed in the General Subcommittee of the Senate Transportation Committee. It has not yet been placed on notice in 2014. 

SB209/HB125 would take away driver licenses from immigrant youth who were granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Although these youth are lawfully present and legally able to live and work in Tennessee, this mean-spirited bill would prevent them from being able to drive in our state. Allowing DACA recipients to continue applying for temporary driver licenses makes sure these youth are able to fully participate and contribute to our community and economy, and ensures that the roads are safe for all of us by allowing DACA recipients to pass a driving test and become insured drivers. Read the full text of the bill here. 

TIRRC strongly opposes HB125/SB209. 

SB209/HB125 was introduced by Representative Sheila Butt (R-Columbia), Representative Joe Carr (R-Lascassas), and Senator Bowling (R-Tullahoma). This bill will be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee and the House Transportation Committee.  

How can I get involved?

  • Sign up for TIRRC's Action Alerts here. If this bill starts moving in committee, we'll alert members of this e-list to take action.
  • Call your Senator and Representative today and tell them to vote NO on HB125/SB209 if it comes up for a vote. 
  • If you'd like to get involved in the campaign to stop HB125/SB209, please contact Stephanie at Stephanie@tnimmigrant.org or Karla at Karla@tnimmigrant.org.  

What is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)?

On June 15, 2012 the Department of Homeland Security announced that deferred action would be granted to immigrant youth in the U.S. who meet specific criteria. This policy allows individuals to remain in the U.S. for a renewable two-year period and to apply for work authorization. 

To be approved, applicants must prove:

  • they arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and are currently under the age of 31;
  • they were present in the U.S. without lawful immigration status on June 15, 2012;
  • have a high school diploma or GED, or completed military service;
  • pass a criminal background check; and
  • have maintained five years of continuous presence in the U.S. 

Applicants must pay the federal government $465 to apply and submit biometrics to the federal government prior to approval. Once approved, DACA recipients receive a reprieve from deportation for two years, a two-year work permit and a Social Security Number.

In Tennessee, current estimates suggest that more than 14,000 immigrant youth are currently eligible for DACA or will be once they reach 15 years of age. 

What does current law state about DACA recipients and driver licenses? 

Under current law, youth who benefit from DACA meet the statutory requirements for a temporary driver license. 

TN Code Annotated Section55-50-331(g) states that the Department of Safety may issue a temporary driver license “to persons whose presence in the United States has been authorized by the federal government for a specific purpose for a specific period of authorized stay.” DACA recipients meet all of the requirements and possess all necessary proof to be eligible for temporary driver licenses, issued for the two years which they are granted deferred action.

Deferred Action is a long standing form of relief that is specifically included in the federal REAL ID Act as a lawful status that would permit the issuance of a federally recognized driver license. 

The federal government has confirmed that DACA recipients are lawfully present.

On January 18, 2013, USCIS confirmed that DACA recipients are “lawfully present,” causing states like IA and MI to drop challenges and reverse previous decisions in order to grant DACA recipients driver licenses.  USCIS clarified that, “[a]n 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.” The North Carolina Attorney General recently released an opinion clarifying that DACA recipients should be eligible to receive driver licenses in NC.  

Denying driver licenses to DACA recipients harms our whole community. 

The federal government has granted lawful presence to these youth so that they may fully participate in our communities and contribute to our economy. Though they are able to live and work in our state, they would face significant barriers to their ability to work and support their families if they were denied the ability to drive lawfully.

We all benefit from ensuring that the 14,000 youth in TN who are eligible to receive DACA are tested, trained, and insured drivers. This bill does not serve the public interest and should be opposed.