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Rep Maldonado introduces ‘first of its kind’ legislation to protect DACA recipients in Rhode Island



Representative Shelby Maldonado (Democrat, District 56, Central Falls) has introduced legislation, with bipartisan support, that will “continue the status quo relating to operator’s and chauffeur’s licenses and limited work authorization to approved recipients under the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This act would also provide that the issuance of a Rhode Island operator’s license shall not confer the right to vote in the state of Rhode Island.”

This legislation, H7982, is the first of its kind in the country. The intention is “provide continued employability and drivers licenses to DACA recipients, even those whose status has otherwise expired due to current federal policies.” Representatives Arthur Corvese (Democrat, District 55, North Providence), Grace Diaz (Democrat, District 11, Providence), Blake Filippi (Republican, District 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly), and Joseph McNamara (Democrat, District 19, Warwick) are cosponsors.

“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 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 (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) for his support and involvement in this issue.”

Last year Corvese and Maldonado were on opposite sides on thee immigration issue, but they seem to have found common ground on the issue of DREAMers.

Companion legislation, S2678, has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Michael McCaffrey (Democrat, District 29, Warwick).

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“DACA recipients have made meaningful contributions to the state’s economy, forming businesses and participating in education,” said 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.”

Joseph Molina Flynn, President of the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee (RILPAC), said, “This is precisely the type of leadership that the Latinx community in Rhode Island has been clamoring for. We hope that legislators understand that passage of this bill will tell Rhode Island’s DACA recipients that we value their contributions to our great State.”

RILPAC, along with the Rhode Island Hispanic Bar Association—which counts several prominent immigration attorneys among its members, encourages every representative and senator in the legislature to help make passage of this bill a reality.

RILPAC describes itself as “a multi-partisan political action committee which endorses candidates who support issues benefiting Latinos and other individuals from urban communities while raising awareness on issues and/or candidates that could adversely impact the Latino community. RILPAC also acts to ensure that elected officials, political leaders, and candidates have a broad understanding of the concerns and priorities among Rhode Island Latinos.”