The cost of driver’s licenses in Texas may appear to be a dull, secondary issue in the pivotal Supreme Court immigration case of United States v. Texas, but it’s likely to be a crucial factor in the case.
Oral arguments were presented last month in a hearing that is one of the most significant immigration cases to come before the nation’s highest court this century and could provide relief to as many as 4 million undocumented immigrants. More than half of the country’s states are opposed to two initiatives that are central to President Obama’s immigration policy, known as DAPA and DACA.
- DAPA is Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. It’s an immigration policy that would give deferred action status to certain classes of undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010 and have children.
- DACA is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It’s an initiative aimed at non-citizens who arrived in the United States as children and is explained here in more depth by Peek & Toland . Under DACA some people who came to this country when they were young and meet certain guidelines “may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal,” states U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
As the lead plaintiff in this case, Texas must show that the action would hurt it in some way. That’s where driver’s licenses come in.
Texas is arguing it would take a major financial hit when it processes driver’s licenses for immigrants who have an illegal status because their deportation would be deferred under the president’s executive action. The state expects an upsurge in driver’s license applications after granting work authorization to previously undocumented immigrants.
The office of Texas’s attorney general has claimed Obama’s initiative would cause an upsurge in applications for driver’s licenses, making them more costly to issue. Texas must show it suffered a significant degree of “injury” to sue, but there is considerable skepticism about the driver’s license argument amid speculation it is merely a smokescreen to clothe a naked political agenda against immigration.
The state’s arguments were recently undermined by a Reuters article that quoted Bill Beardall, of the University of Texas Law School. Beardall, who is also the executive director of the Equal Justice Center, said the state’s claims are “tenuous.”
Texas claims the additional driver’s licenses would cost $103 million. However, that figure is nearly three times what Texas currently budgets every year for all driver’s licenses to 27 million people, Reuters reported.
Writing in the Huffington Post, Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, states:
“Texas is engaging in legal obfuscation they hope others won’t notice. First, having work authorization wouldn’t make those with DAPA or DACA eligible for licenses. It’s having received deferred action that allows immigrants to apply for and become tested, licensed, and insured drivers.”
It remains to be seen if the judges will issue a decision based on the case’s merits. A decision is likely in June and there is speculation that the Supreme Court will be split. Many of last months’ arguments concerned whether the states have standing to sue over the executive orders in the first place which is why the seemingly obscure arguments about driving licenses in Texas could prove to be so important. To find out more about the immigration reforms,
If you are affected by DAPA or DACA, it’s natural that you will be experiencing a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. Our Austin immigration attorneys can help you understand the process and to find out about more about the process of securing legal status in the U.S. Contact us at (512) 474-4445.