Governor signs legislation that would protect DACA Dreamers in Rhode Island
STATE HOUSE — Governor Gina M. Raimondo signed into law legislation that protects Rhode Island Dreamers' ability to obtain drivers licenses during a ceremony at the State House Monday evening.
The law (2018-H 7982B, 2018-S 2678A), introduced by Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls) and Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), will continue the status quo relating to operator and chauffeur’s licenses to approved recipients under the DACA program. It also provides that the issuance of a Rhode Island operator's license would not confer the right to vote in the state of Rhode Island.
In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy to allow young unauthorized immigrants who are low enforcement priorities to remain in the country with temporary lawful status. A person who receives deferred action is considered to be lawfully present and may apply for work authorization. Deferred action is permitted for a renewable period of two years but it does not grant legal immigration status nor a pathway to citizenship. Deferred action under DACA may be terminated if the recipient engages in criminal activity, leaves the country without advanced parole, or if the program is repealed.
An estimated 3,300 individuals in Rhode Island are eligible for the DACA program, but only around 1,200 signed up before the program was terminated. DHS announced that the program was to be phased out over six months, ending March 5, but on Jan. 9, a U.S. district judge ordered that DACA recipients be allowed to continue submitting renewal applications while legislation is pending in Congress.
“DACA youth have called Rhode Island home since they were children — some since they were infants — and have no significant connection to the land of their birth,” said Representative Maldonado, who co-chairs the Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus. “They have become a vital part of Rhode Island’s educational community, business community and culture. They are a key part of Rhode Island’s future, and I thank Speaker Nicholas Mattiello for his support and involvement in this issue.”
Rhode Island Dreamers with current or past DACA status will now be able to apply for and receive drivers licenses in Rhode Island regardless of what happens to the program at the federal level. There are over 3,000 Dreamers across our state--including 1,300 with current or past DACA status--and we're better off because of their impact. Thanks to federal protections, they're able to learn here, drive here and work here. But those protections are currently under siege by the Trump Administration.
“In 1636, Roger Williams founded Rhode Island on the principle of tolerance and our state has been strengthened by the contributions of immigrants ever since,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “The Trump Administration’s cruel actions to undermine DACA put the program — and Dreamers’ futures — at risk. Thanks to this legislation, Rhode Island Dreamers with DACA status will be able to obtain drivers licenses, no matter what President Trump does. I thank every advocate, community member and legislator for sending a message to our Dreamers: we want you here.”
“DACA recipients have made meaningful contributions to the state’s economy, forming businesses and participating in education,” said Senator McCaffrey. “This legislation will guarantee that state law regarding driver’s licenses and work authorization will continue to apply to them, no matter how federal deliberations on the issue play out.”
For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903