A pathway to a driver’s license for unauthorized immigrants in KS?

Nov 26, 2014

Credit Kansas Department of Revenue

President Obama’s executive action to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program could lead to some unauthorized immigrants having the necessary identification to obtain a Kansas driver’s license.

Under the expanded federal program, adults meeting all the requirements to receive deferred removal status would be eligible to obtain a work permit.  In order to obtain a Kansas driver’s license a person is required to prove lawful status in the U.S. and Kansas residency.  An unexpired employment authorization card, or work permit, would be a valid way to prove lawful status according to spokeswoman from the Kansas Department of Revenue quoted by the Topeka Capital Journal

Governor Brownback’s office hasn’t commented on the possibility of driver’s licenses being issued to unauthorized immigrants.  However, the New York Times asked Brownback about the matter while he was attending the recent Republican Governors Association and reported his stating that the State Legislature would never stomach the concept of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, even after Mr. Obama had given them worker permits and shielded them from deportation.

Meanwhile, the Wichita City Council is considering whether to make a bill to allow “undocumented workers” to obtain driver’s permits a part of its state legislative agenda, according to an article by Bryan Lowry in the Wichita Eagle.  The bill was introduced in the last legislative session but failed to get a hearing.  Support for the measure has been voiced in other cities in Kansas with large immigrant populations, including Garden City, Liberal and Dodge City in southwest Kansas, as well as Topeka and Kansas City, Kan.

In a recently updated study, the Pew Research Center estimates that there were 75,000 unauthorized immigrants of all ages in Kansas in 2012, a drop of 20,000 since 2009.  That represented 2.6% of the state’s total population. The same study estimated that there were 50,000 unauthorized immigrants in the state’s labor force in 2012, or 3.5% of the total state workforce.  It’s this population for whom the possibility of obtaining a driver’s license or permit would be of most concern.