Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Rhode Island protecting DACA recipients right to obtain driver’s licenses

For 21-year-old Rhode Islander Rodrigo Pimentel, driving is an essential part of life since he is the only member of his family with a driver’s license, so without one, “doing anything in life would be complicated,” he said.

“Every job that I’ve had has required driving,” Pimentel said, adding that “Rhode Island is very car-dependent state. A car ride that takes 20 minutes could take an hour on the bus.”

Pimentel is a DACA recipient, which allows eligible undocumented immigrants to study and work lawfully in the United States. He has fought to maintain his driver’s license by advocating for the codification of license eligibility for DACA recipients.

In June, the actions of Pimentel and local advocacy groups culminated in the Rhode Island General Assembly’s vote to pass a bill to protect DACA recipients’ current ability to obtain a license — even if the program were to end. This legislation comes in the wake of threats from the Trump administration to end the DACA program altogether.

Gov. Gina Raimondo signed the bill into law back in June 18 and is set to be enacted Dec. 3, By passing a law to protect DACA recipients’ right to procure licenses, “we have given these youths a level of certainty that ensures their valuable contributions to the Ocean State will continue for years to come — no matter what happens in Washington,” Sen. Michael McCaffrey, D-Warwick wrote in a statement to The Herald.

Pimentel praised Raimondo for her role in the bill’s passage, saying that “the governor showed real leadership here by doing this, as well as the General Assembly.” Driving is not a “privilege, it’s a necessity for most people,” said Carl Krueger, a staff attorney at Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, adding that anyone who can prove residency and pass a driver’s exam should be able to drive in the state.