CALIFORNIA gave immigrants more than a million reasons to celebrate the coming of 2015 – a move that would drive the conservative base of Republicans crazy.
California law now allows drivers to be licensed regardless of their immigration status. The state’s previous law required drivers to prove that they were legal residents. Now, those applying for a California driver’s license need only to prove that they reside in the state.
Assembly Bill 60 – The Safe and Responsible Driver Act – was passed after more than two decades of organizing by immigrants fighting to restore access to licenses.
Under this new law, any eligible California resident will be able to apply for a driver’s license, regardless of immigration status, beginning January 1, 2015!
The most commonly accepted documents establishing residency in California include utility bills (phone, water, power, cable, garbage collection, and rental agreements). Drivers must also present evidence of their identity, such as a passport or identification card from their countries of origin or any other country from which they had obtained an official identification card.
The last part is taking the tests checking their vision, knowledge and ability behind the wheel. All that for only $33 license application fee.
The road to a better job, increased income and accrued benefits for the newly-licensed driver – and by extension his or her family, opens. While there are an estimated 2.4 million undocumented immigrants in California, only about 1.4 million people are expected to apply over the next three years, according to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
California joined 10 states, along with Colorado, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, to give out licenses this way, according to the National Immigration Law Center. The law was signed by Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, last year.
Conservative Californians and those in other states fear this law will encourage more undocumented immigrants to come to the United States.
Hope and other changes in 2015
The State Department announced that in the coming months, the US immigrant visa priority dates would be moving along quite well, anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks per month. The good news is that, by comparing the cut-off dates from two years back, the priority date for the F1 – over 21 unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens moved almost seven (7) years in just over a year. See the US Immigrant Visa priority dates for February 2015.
It is not uncommon for visa applicants (also called visa beneficiaries, the persons being sponsored or petitioned for) to simply wait until they receive a notice from either the National Visa Center (NVC) or the US Embassy in Manila. A lot of times, such wait-to-hear-from-them attitude causes unnecessary delays, and in numerous occasions, the cancellation of the visa petition.
A visa beneficiary is required to assign an agent to ensure the timely and accurate processing of the visa application from the NVC to the US Embassy interview stage. Before a visa applicant can take the steps to pay the appropriate visa fees as well as affidavit of support payments, he or she is given the Form DS 3032, now DS 261, to designate the agent or representative.
Removing the per-country limits
On January 8 Democrat Congressperson Zoe Lofgren of California introduced the proposed law HR 213. “A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants, to increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-sponsored immigrants, and for other purposes.”
The bill was co-sponsored by Republican Representative Labrador of Idaho.
President Barrack Obama directed the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of State to notify and encourage the public to submit their comments, recommendation and relevant inputs on how to fix America’s broken immigration system. The deadline to submit such input is on March 22, 2015.
Our readers will note that President Obama issued an administrative order allowing two sectors of the undocumented population in the US to stay in the US legally without fear of being deported. These are the children who were brought into the US by their parents (through Deferred Action on Child Arrivals or DACA) later expanded to include the parents themselves through the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA).
From the other side
Republicans – who are now the majority in both the House of Representatives and the US Senate – are not taking Obama’s executive action lying down.
On January 7, 2015, the Repeal Executive Amnesty Act of 2015 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Robert Aderholt (Republican congressman of the 4th district of Alabama. This comprehensive bill seeks to reinstate meaningful immigration enforcement, reins in the abuse of executive power by President Obama, restores the authority of Congress to make US laws and restores faith for the American public that those laws will be carried out. If passed, the bill would defund and stop the President’s recent executive action amnesty.
The battle lines have been drawn for the US presidential election of November 2016.