The California State Assembly [official website] on Thursday approved a bill [HB 2189, text] that will allow some undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children to obtain driver's licenses. The bill, which the California Senate [official website] passed hours earlier, directs California's Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver's licenses to people without a social security number who can prove they are authorized to be in the US under federal law. The bill justifies allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses by citing an Obama administration policy directive [memorandum, PDF; JURIST report] known as Deferred Action, which halts deportation proceedings against some immigrants who came to the US as children. Governor Jerry Brown [official website] is expected to sign the bill into law, stating [press release], "This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally. Hopefully, it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due." Passage of this bill will make California the tenth state [AP report] allowing certain undoccumented immigrants to apply for licenses.
Immigration laws [JURIST backgrounder] have become a hotly debated issue over the past few years when states, beginning with Arizona, passed laws giving state and local officials more power to crack down on illegal immigration. Last year Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach [official website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the Deferred Action policy directive. Also last year the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] partially struck down [JURIST report] Alabama and Georgia's immigration laws, upholding only certain provisions. Earlier in 2012 Utah's Attorney General argued that the state's restrictive immigration law should be upheld [JURIST report] in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Arizona v. United States [opinion, PDF; JURIST report].