DACA policy prompts thousands to apply for licenses

A spokeswoman from the Georgia Department of Driver Services said that nearly 10,882 immigrants who were granted temporary citizenship under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status have applied for Georgia drivers’ licenses since August 2012.

President Obama’s program was created to protect young immigrants who were brought to the United States when they were minors from being deported. These young people have the opportunity to stay in the country for up to two years and earn a work permit. According to information provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), by the end of 2012, more than 16,000 young immigrants living in Georgia were officially approved for protection, or deferred status.

Although undocumented immigrants are not eligible to receive driver’s licenses in the state of Georgia, the attorney general in that state announced that being granted deferred action status made it possible for an individual to earn a license.

However, there are some obstacles for immigrants who are granted deferred status and want to receive a license. One Republican senator in Georgia has proposed a bill to prevent people protected by deferred action status from earning a driver’s license. The Senate has not yet voted on this bill. Another Republican senator has suggested an amendment that would make English the official language of Georgia, and also make it mandatory to take the driver’s license exam in English. Currently the written section of the text is available in 11 other languages besides English, while the driving test is conducted solely in English.

Federal immigration authorities can also grant deferred action status to undocumented immigrants at their discretion. This means that the young people who qualified for the 2012 program are not the only ones eligible for deferred action in their immigration cases. Therefore, more people in Georgia may be applying for driver’s licenses in the future.