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Rhode Island passes law protecting DACA recipients’ ability to obtain drivers licenses



Rhode Island Dreamers with current or past DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) 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 thanks to legislation (H7982, S2678) sponsored by Representative Shelby Maldonado in the House and Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey in the Senate and signed into law today by Governor Gina Raimondo.

There are over 3000 DACA recipients in Rhode Island, including 1300 with current or past DACA status. Thanks to federal protections, Dreamers are able to learn here, drive here and work here. But those protections are currently under siege by the Trump Administration.

“Today, in Rhode Island, we recognize that while there are still so many injustices that we must help stop, we can act as a state to protect our neighbors, in a bipartisan manner, and for the benefit of all,” said Gabriela Domenzain, Director of the Latino Policy Institute and Immigration Activist. Domenzain was the first speaker at the signing ceremony.

“Dreamers like me work here, live here and study here,” said Rodrigo Pimentel, Rhode Island DREAMer, activist and DACA recipient. “We strengthen this state and our economy.  The fact that I live in a state that has acted in their power to say to me and my other DREAMer friends: we appreciate you, we welcome you, and we will act to make you safe, is what I’m most proud of today.”

“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 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.”

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“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 Shelby Maldonado (Democrat, District 56, Central Falls), 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  for his support and involvement in this issue.”

“DACA recipients have made meaningful contributions to the state’s economy, forming businesses and participating in education,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (Democrat, District 29, Warwick). “This legislation will guarantee that state law regarding drivers licenses and work authorization will continue to apply to them, no matter how federal deliberations on the issue play out.”

Here’s the signing:

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.