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Nebraska is the last state to allow undocumented youth to get driver’s licenses

1 Jun

More than 2,700 young undocumented immigrants in Nebraska now have the right to apply for driver’s licenses.

The Nebraska legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Pete Ricketts on Thursday to pass a bill ending the state’s ban on licenses for DREAMers. Nebraska is the last state in the country to allow them to receive driver’s licenses.

President Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy gave young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children protection from deportation, a social security number, and a work permit.

In most states, DACA also meant a driver’s license, but Arizona and Nebraska were the only states to block access to licenses for covered immigrants. A Supreme Court decision forced Arizona to award licenses in December.

Nebraska’s new law allowing licenses went into effect immediately, and 33 people covered by DACA received licenses or ID cards on Friday, Rhonda Lahm, the director of the state’s DMV, confirmed to Fusion.

“I’ve been waiting for this for such a long time,” Mayra Saldana, 26, told the Journal Star as she waited in line at an office in Lincoln. Now she can take her planned road trip to Denver or Chicago, she said.

“In rural parts of Nebraska, public transportation is pretty much nonexistent, so this is a big deal for me,” Luis Olivas, also 26, told the Omaha World-Herald.

The driver’s license bill is the second example last week of the red state’s unicameral legislature standing up to a veto of a major progressive priority. Legislators also ended the death penalty in the state, overriding Ricketts’ veto.

While Nebraska’s law is worth celebrating, thousands of undocumented immigrants around the country are still prevented from driving legally. There are currently only 10 states, along with D.C. and Puerto Rico, that allow all undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses, according to the National Immigration Law Center. Last week, an appeals court blocked Obama’s expansion of DACA, which would have allowed parents of DREAMers and permanent residents defer deportation and access licenses.

Debates over giving undocumented immigrants licenses have “more than driving at stake,” writes Jonathan Blazer, a staff attorney at the ACLU. “For states and Dreamers alike, a driver’s license symbolizes belonging, membership, and acceptance.”