Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants who have been able to drive legally in Florida may be unable to get driver licenses again after the state quietly changed its identification requirements for obtaining licenses.
In mid-May, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles tightened its document requirements that outline what some immigrants must provide in order to get their driver licenses. It’s the most striking change of at least six that have been made in the past six months, making it almost impossible for people who are in the deportation process to legally drive — something they had been able to do before, according to internal documents obtained by the Miami Herald.
Before May 11, people with pending deportation hearings were able to get a drivers license as long as they had a court document proving they had a future hearing date. Now, when applying for or renewing a license — which for immigrants could be valid anywhere from one to four years — they need to present an unexpired passport and an I-94 form, the federal document proving they entered the U.S. legally.
The problem: The majority of people in deportation proceedings did not enter the country legally.
Though the Executive Office for Immigration Review—a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Justice whose chief function is to conduct removal proceedings in immigration courts— does not keep data for how many people enter the country legally versus illegally, immigration lawyers and experts across the state and country say most of their undocumented clients in deportation entered the country “without inspection” — without checking in at a port of entry.
As of June 2020, there were at least 120,000 people in deportation proceedings for the fiscal year in Florida and more than 1.2 million across the country, government data shows. There is currently no data on how many of those people are unlicensed. Deportation proceedings almost always drag on for years, and in some instances they can take a decade.
To read this article in it’s entirety, visit the Miami Herald.