The Federal government recently granted certain immigrants deferred status through the DACA order (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), but only a minority of states allow these qualified immigrants to enjoy state-provided benefits. The most crucial benefits include the availability of driver’s licenses and in-state tuition prices for DACA recipients.
Driver’s licenses are perhaps the most important benefit a state can provide to a DACA grantee because it allows the individual to make best use of their ability to apply for work authorization. Rules governing driver’s license requirements vary by state.
The good news is that 45 states have confirmed that DACA recipients are eligible for licenses. Notably, New Mexico, Washington and Utah grant driver’s licenses or driving certificates to individuals regardless of their lawful presence in the country.
By contrast, Arizona and Nebraska specifically state that DACA recipients are not eligible for a driver’s license. Arizona refuses to allow DACA’s employment authorization document (EAD) to serve as identification, which is one of the state requirements for a license. The EAD that DACA recipients obtain is accepted in most states as proof of lawful presence for purposes of obtaining a driver’s license.
Illinois is one of these states accepting the EAD. Furthermore, DACA recipients who receive an EAD can obtain a Social Security Number, which is another requirement for a driver’s license in almost all states. Although most states will allow DACA recipients to apply for a driver’s license, the bottom line is that they must first apply for and obtain an employment authorization document.
Another issue that has arisen regarding DACA recipients is the cost of college tuition. In-state tuition rates are only available to undocumented students in 16 states (Illinois is one of these states).
Effective May 20, 2003, Illinois allows undocumented students who reside in Illinois and meet certain requirements to pay the lower in-state tuition rate at public colleges and universities in Illinois. The student must have resided in Illinois while attending high school, have graduated from an Illinois high school or received a GED from Illinois, and must provide the university with an affidavit stating their intent to file an application to become a permanent resident of the U.S. when eligible to do so.
On March 17th, New York ‘s legislature tried to take this momentum a step further by introducing a bill that would have granted state financial aid to undocumented immigrants. Currently, only California, Texas, Washington and New Mexico offer state-funded financial aid to undocumented students. Unfortunately, New York will not be joining these states because the legislation failed to pass in the Senate by two votes. While financial aid for DACA recipients is clearly the exception, hopefully the trend towards allowing undocumented students to receive in-state tuition costs will become the norm.
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