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Why those granted Deferred Action should be given driver's Licenses as well

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I have listened to the news about the deferred action program, read articles about it, and advised clients about it. While the reactions have been varied, there is one reaction, from some States, that I have seen that I feel is shortsighted and detrimental to the public safety and welfare. I am talking about the decision made by some States to deny the benefit of a driver's license to those granted deferred action. Before I go on to discuss why those who qualify for deferred action deserve to receive a license and other benefits, I should explain what deferred action is an isn't.

Deferred action is a method for allowing certain persons who are in the US without legal status to stay in the US for a two year period. It does not actual confer any immigration status to these people, it simply allows them to stay in the US and to avoid deportation while the program is in existence. Once the program is over, however, these people would be subject to deportation once again. While they are allowed to stay in the US, those who qualify are also given work authorization. It is also important to note that this is a Presidential Order, it is not a statute, regulation or law. It can be changed at any time.

When one reviews the above it is clear that this is meant to be a temporary program. Either this program will have to be made permanent somehow, allowing those who qualify to get permanent residence, or it will be dropped by a new President or Congress. Its status is just to delicate and uncertain, and there has been to much politically made of it, for it to survive as is for an extended period of time (again, this is in my view). So why do I feel that it makes sense to allow those who qualify for deferred action through this program to also get a driver's license? There are two main reasons: The first is safety related, the second is based upon decency.

The first reason is reflected by what we all see happening everyday in schools and neighborhoods. Young people being drawn into gang activity, creating unsafe areas and neighborhoods. We all see these, and, in some ways rightly feel that gang members who are not US Citizens or permanent residents should be deported to protect us. But does deporting these gang members really protect us? I don't think so. Studies have shown that these gang members go back to their home countries (Mexico and Central America, in most cases) and join up with the SAME gangs in those countries. The difference? They now have connections in the US to plan with, to undertake trafficking in illegal drugs, and to create more dangerous situations in both countries. So what is the solution, allow them to stay in the US? N, it is to address some of the issues that cause this in the first place to try and stop the gang membership from occurring in the first place. What makes young people join gangs? While there is no one overall reason, one big reason is that they have no other options, nothing to look forward to. If they are here illegally, they cannot hope to get a job or go to college, despite the fact that the US is where they have lived all their lives. While I certainly do not condone their decision, or think it a smart decision, it is the decision that many young illegal immigrants are making every day. And it is a decision that we can help avoid not just by supporting deferred action, and the Dream Act, but also by allowing those who qualify for deferred action to get other benefits, such as driver's licenses so that they can actually get to work and keep their jobs and go to college and become productive members of society. So those are our choices: help them or have them become gang members. While it may seem that I am trying to frame the choices so it appears that there is no real choice, I am actually just trying to be realistic. I do not see any other choice out there at this point.

The second reason I feel that this should be the way we move forward is simple decency. Whether we agree with the President's decision or not, it seems to me that decency would demand that we help them with there stay in the US while they are here legally. If one of us was brought to another country and brought up there and the government allowed us to stay, wouldn't we want people to help us while we were there? Or, even if they did not overtly help us, at least allow us to help ourselves by working, driving, and doing what we needed to do to survive? I think that the answer of everyone would be yes. I would hope that we could all overcome our dislike of Obama, of his policies (if, indeed we do have this dislike) and treat these people like people and human beings who are worthy of dignity and our compassion.

You may now be thinking (or maybe not), "So why would anyone be against this?". I think it comes down to law and order. They feel that the people eligible for this benefit are being rewarded for breaking the law and feel that no more benefit should be given to these people. This is a strong argument, but again, I think it is missing the bigger picture. It is ignoring the fact that the benefit of allowing these young adults to stay has already been decided and granted. It ignores the fact that these young adults are not going to just up and leave the United States just because the benefit was not granted, or is not extended. It ignores the fact that these young adults are joining gangs because they feel that they have no other real choice. Basically, in my opinion, it ignores the reality of the situation, and does not provide any solution to the issue.

So in conclusion, I feel that it is worth it for us to support not just the deferred action program and the Dream Act, but also granting these young adults driver's licenses and other benefits they need to take full advantage of the deferred action they are given. In my opinion, it just makes good sense.

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