Letter to the Editor

IDOT decision

Friday, January 4, 2013

A recent decision by the Iowa Department of Transportation Director, Paul Trombino III, to deny an Iowa driver's license or state identification cards to young immigrants (Dreamers) who have been granted deferred action status by US Immigration and Naturalization Services is a very troubling development. Those individuals now have a legal immigration status in this country and may work, attend school, and live in this country/state, but are being denied this basic right by this decision made by a non-elected official. To my knowledge, this is the only group of people who have legal immigration status, who are denied this right.

I serve on a Standing Committee for Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON), an immigration ministry of the United Methodist Church. I urge everyone to study this decision and urge your legislators to take action to correct this injustice. This, written by Frank Camp, Chair of the Iowa JFON Standing Committee, illuminates our position on this issue and discusses the reasoning behind that position.

"Stop playing politics with young people's lives... I was embarrassed and disappointed in the news that Iowa Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino III decided not to issue driver's licenses or state identification cards to those who have been granted deferred action status by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services.

"The Federal action gives them the right to be present in the state. The IDOT decision puts that group of people in a box that apparently can only be opened by them leaving Iowa. Iowa would be the poorer for that; poorer in spirit, poorer in reputation and poorer economically.

State officials should be granting driver's licenses and state I.D. cards to immigrants who meet the Federal requirements for deferred action and pass the same driver's tests that any Iowan has to take. There is no public safety reason for this arbitrary decision and it has no relevance to the IDOT's Vision of "Enhancing mobility for Iowans through innovation, infrastructure, and information" as published on its website. We urge the Legislature to take up this question in the upcoming session if the state agency continues to refuse to act according to its proper purposes.

Iowa has a long history of welcoming immigrants from its earliest days. We can't deny that Germans, Swedish, Norwegians, Dutch, Czech, Southeast Asian, African, and, yes, Mexican and Central American immigrants have all enriched our communities in countless ways. This decision, which is transparently politically driven, is counter to Iowa's history and sullies the reputation of our state as just, rational and tolerant.

Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors welcomes immigrants into our communities by providing free, high-quality immigration legal services, education and advocacy. We are guided by what may well be our final "driver's test:" "I was a stranger and you welcomed me....I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me." Mt. 25: 35, 40.

Frank Camp

Cedar Rapids, Iowa