SALEM, Ore. — Oregon will issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants accepted into a new federal program that delays deportation for some young people brought illegally to the United States as children, officials said Wednesday.
The decision by the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division ends months of uncertainty over how the DMV would handle applications for driving privileges or state identification from illegal immigrants given a two-year deportation delay and the opportunity to obtain a work permit. Oregon law requires proof of legal presence in the United States to get a driver’s license, permit or identification card.
“To some people a driver’s license is just any ordinary thing because it’s so easy to get it,” said Miriam Corona, 22, whose application to the federal program was approved in October. “But for people like us, it’s a big deal.”
Corona said she was brought to the U.S. from Mexico as an infant without authorization from immigration authorities. She was one of a handful of people in the deferred-deportation program given a driver’s license last year before the state said license applications should be out on hold to sort out legal issues.
About 200 immigrants have pending applications for a driver’s license, said David House, a spokesman for the DMV.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, announced last summer, allows young people brought illegally to the U.S. before their 16th birthday to obtain a temporary reprieve from deportation and the opportunity to obtain a work permit if they meet certain conditions. Immigrants do not get legal status in the United States, however, creating complicated legal questions for DMV officials.
As of Dec. 13, more than 100,000 people had their deferred-action applications approved nationwide. The Department of Homeland Security wouldn’t say how many are from Oregon.
Oregon driver’s licenses issued to immigrants in the program will expire on the same day as their deferred-action status.
Jim Ludwick, a vocal opponent of illegal immigration, said Oregon should not be issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, even if the federal government has told them they won’t be deported.
“Apparently we are no longer a nation of the rule of law,” Ludwick said. “We’ve now morphed into a politicization of that, where certain people will be held to the rule of law and others won’t.”
Gov. John Kitzhaber — in a statement in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Russian — said he was pleased with the DMV’s decision. People with authorization to work must be able to get there, he said.
“It’s the right decision, and it will provide certainty for working families and employers,” Kitzhaber said.