Latino commission opposes DOT immigrant policy

DES MOINES – Latino affairs commissioners appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad asked him Friday to reconsider his administration’s new policy barring driver’s licenses for certain young immigrants allowed by a federal rule to live in the United States.

The Office of Latino Affairs, a division under the state’s Department of Human Rights, asked Branstad in a letter sent to him Friday to meet with them.

The letter said the Iowa Department of Transportation is wrong to deny licenses to immigrants brought into the United States as children by parents who were not legal residents and who qualify for the new deferred action program announced by President Barack Obama in June.

The DOT announced in December that it interpreted the new federal regulation to mean the immigrants are only protected from deportation for two years but not given legal status to be in the United States.

Iowa Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino said in a legislative committee hearing this week that his department can’t by law give a license to someone unauthorized to be in the United States.

The policy change has drawn criticism from Republicans and Democrats and civil rights groups.

The ACLU claims the state is misinterpreting the federal government’s language, arguing immigrants in the program are given legal status to live in the U.S.

The commission’s letter said the decision prevents about 5,000 Latinos in the state from safely driving to and from work and another 5,000 from driving to school and back.