President Obama would like to make life a bit easier for a small portion of the millions of undocumented immigrants leading clandestine lives in the United States. But a few Republican governors seem unwilling to let someone like the so-called “Leader of the Free World” stand in their way:
“Joining Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman vows to deny driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants who qualify for a new policy that would suspend deportation for at least two years and allow them to obtain work permits.
Heineman’s announcement came on the heels of Brewer’s controversial decision to sign an executive order denying licenses or other major benefits to undocumented immigrants who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.”
The obstruction is part of a goal undertaken by the nativist wing of the Republican Party to make life as difficult for the undocumented as the average American can stomach, known benignly as “self-deportation.” It’s the message approved by Mitt Romney, who also described Arizona’s anti-immigrant law as a model for the rest of the country — as if what the country truly needed was a Jan Brewer in every governor’s mansion from Honolulu to Augusta.
Arizona and Nebraska are the only two states to commit to such measures, so far, but you can expect at least one or two more as the nation inches toward Election Day.
Most states, however — and I may be a bit optimistic here — won’t follow Governors Brewer and Heinemen down the narrow path of xenophobia, sadism and spin. Already the California state government has shown signs of humanity by hinting that it’ll grant driver’s licenses to DACA-approved immigrants. Assemblyman Gil Cedillo has even vowed to pass legislation that would provide a driver’s license to all undocumented immigrants who meet requirements.
Currently, only two states allow the undocumented to obtain driver’s licenses: Washington and New Mexico — despite New Mexico’s popular Latina governor’s attempts to undo her state’s pro-immigrant law.
Campaigns to put licenses in the hands of undocumented immigrants have smoldered in many states for the past few decades, including in my home state of Illinois. Most recently, immigrants’ rights groups threw their collective might behind Colorado’s Initiative 52, which if passed, would’ve given undocumented immigrants living in the state the opportunity to obtain a right to the road. As with most efforts, Initiative 52 never survived its initial hurdle — the required 86,000 signatures before August 6.
That most states would be so narrow-minded as to deny undocumented immigrants the ability to obtain driver’s licenses never ceases to perplex. We’re fully aware that hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of these individuals already maneuver our streets. Yet, they’re behind the wheel of a 2-ton machine without testing or sanction by necessity — and which, for DREAMers, is no fault of their own. The law requires driver’s to be licensed, but it also prohibits the undocumented from being licensed. What options are left for the undocumented person who needs to get from A to B, especially in the mass-transit desert that is the average American suburb?
Denying driver’s licenses to the undocumented may fulfill the scheme of making immigrant lives unlivable, but the policy also puts at risk all Americans who must share the road with unlicensed drivers.