After DACA's implementation, many states considered whether to provide or deny state benefits such as driver’s licenses or instate tuition to noncitizens, including people granted deferred action.
Before DACA, three states—New Mexico, Utah and Washington—issued driver’s licenses or driving privilege cards to unauthorized immigrants. After DACA, California was the first to act to allow deferred action recipients to be issued driver’s licenses. All states now issue driver's licenses to DACA recipients. Currently, 15 states and the District of Columbia allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. These states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington—issue a license if an applicant provides certain documentation, such as a foreign birth certificate, a foreign passport, or a consular card and evidence of current residency in the state.
In-State Tuition Bills
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia offer in-state tuition to unauthorized immigrant students by state legislative action and seven states by state university systems. Sixteen state legislatures—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington—and the District of Columbia enacted laws to allow in-state tuition benefits for certain unauthorized immigrant students. At least seven state university systems—in Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma and Rhode Island—established policies to offer in-state tuition rates to unauthorized immigrant students.
In 2018, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington enacted laws allowing certain immigrant students, such as students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), to be eligible for financial aid. In 2019, Arkansas allowed DACA students or those with federal work permits to receive in-state tuition.
At least eleven states—California,Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington—and the District of Columbia offer state-funded financial aid to unauthorized immigrant students. In April 2014, the Virginia attorney general advised that Virginia students who are lawfully present in the United States under the DACA program qualify for in-state tuition. Two states prohibit undocumented students from enrolling in public higher-education institutions – Alabama and South Carolina. However, these states allow DACA recipients to enroll in public colleges and universities and some institutions in Alabama allow DACA recipients to receive in-state tuition rate. The State Board of Regents in Georgia prohibits certain institutions from admitting undocumented students.
DACA recipients are ineligible for most forms of government health care assistance including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, and tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. Some states, such as California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington state and Washington, D.C., have opted to fund health insurance to all children regardless of immigration status.
State Professional Licenses
The requirements to obtain a professional license vary from state to state. Fifteen states—Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming—have enacted legislation to provide or improve professional licenses for certain populations, such as DACA recipients, legal immigrants and/or unauthorized immigrants.
Arkansas authorized the State Board of Nursing to license recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and added a medical fellowship as a method for a foreign medical graduate to obtain a license to practice medicine. California passed legislation allowing qualified applicants could be admitted to the state bar regardless of their immigration status. California also enacted a measure allowing about 40 state boards to accept a federal taxpayer identification number as proof of identification in lieu of a Social Security number when considering applications. Florida enacted legislation permitting the Supreme Court to admit certain unauthorized immigrant students to practice law if they received employment authorization from the federal government, a Social Security number, and fulfilled all state requirements. Maine repealed a residency provision for applicants and a character reference requirement for foreign-trained applicants. Minnesota created the Foreign-Trained Physician Task Force to address barriers to practice and facilitate pathways to assist immigrant international medical graduates to integrate into the Minnesota health care delivery system. Nebraska allows professional or commercial licenses to DACA recipients. The New York Board of Regents allows eligible DACA recipients to receive a professional license and some teacher certifications. California, Illinois and Nevada prohibit the denial of an occupational or professional license based solely on the applicant's citizenship or immigration status. New Jersey established a pilot program for licensing those with a barber’s license from another state or foreign country. Maine, Oregon and Washington support studies on how immigrants or refugees become licensed and to reduce barriers for them. Nevada allows licensing for foreign teachers, South Dakota for dentists, and Utah for occupational therapists. West Virginia allows permits for exchange teachers from foreign countries. Wyoming repealed a requirement for a bar applicant to be a U.S. citizen.
In 2018, Colorado adopted a resolution that recognized “Dreamers” losing their work authorization would have far-reaching job-loss consequences for all Americans.
Deferred Action Timeline
- June 15, 2012 – The DACA program is created by DHS memorandum.
- Aug. 15, 2012 – Individuals begin filing DACA applications with USCIS.
- Nov. 20, 2014 – The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program and the DACA expansion is announced.
- Dec. 03, 2014 – Texas v. United States is filed by 22 states: Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and by five politicians from Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi and North Carolina.
- Feb. 16, 2015 – The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas grants a preliminary injunction, blocking the implementation of DAPA and the expanded DACA.
- Mar. 12 2015 – The Department of Justice (DOJ) files an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to lift the implementation block.
- Nov. 9, 2015 – The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant the preliminary injunction.
- Jan. 19 2016 – The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear United States v. Texas
- June 15 2017 – DHS announces the rescission of the DAPA program.
- Jun 23 2016 – The U.S. Supreme Court arrives at a 4-4 decision, leaving the Fifth Circuit’s decision in place.
- June 29, 2017 – Texas and 9 states request Attorney General Jeff Sessions to repeal the DACA program by September 5, 2017.
- July 21, 2017 – California and 18 states plus the District of Columbia wrote a letter to the president requesting continuation of DACA.
- Sept. 5, 2017 - DHS officially rescinds DACA by memorandum with a six month phase out.
- Sept. 6, 2017 - New York and 14 states plus the District of Columbia file a lawsuit seeking a halt to the rescission of DACA.
- Jan. 9, 2018 – A San Francisco-based U.S. District Court judge ordered the administration to resume accepting renewal applications for DACA
- Feb. 26, 2018 – The Supreme Court declines to take up an immediate appeal of court decisions resuming DACA renewals
- April 24, 2018 – A federal judge ruled that DACA must stay in place and DHS must accept new and renewal applications
- June 28, 2019 – The Supreme Court decides to consolidate three petitions related to DACA Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California (Docket 18-587), Trump v. NAACP (Docket 18-588), and McAleenan v. Vidal (Docket 18-589)
- November 12, 2019 – The Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the cases (transcript)
- June 2020 – The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its decision
DACA Approved Applications