PROVIDENCE, RI - At a State House ceremony this evening, Governor Gina M. Raimondo signed into law H 7982 Sub B and S 2678 Sub A, legislation that protects Rhode Island Dreamers' ability to obtain drivers licenses.
Rhode Island Dreamers with current or past DACA status will now be able to apply for and receive drivers licenses in Rhode Island regardless of what happens to the program at the federal level. There are over 3,000 Dreamers across our state--including 1,300 with current or past DACA status--and we're better off because of their impact. Thanks to federal protections, they're able to learn here, drive here and work here. But those protections are currently under siege by the Trump Administration.
"In 1636, Roger Williams founded Rhode Island on the principle of tolerance and our state has been strengthened by the contributions of immigrants ever since," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "The Trump Administration's cruel actions to undermine DACA put the program--and Dreamers' futures--at risk. Thanks to this legislation, Rhode Island Dreamers with DACA status will be able to obtain drivers licenses, no matter what President Trump does. I thank every advocate, community member and legislator for sending a message to our Dreamers: we want you here."
The legislation was sponsored by Representative Shelby Maldonado in the House and Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey in the Senate.
"DACA youth have called Rhode Island home since they were children - some since they were infants - and have no significant connection to the land of their birth," said Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls), who co-chairs the Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus. "They have become a vital part of Rhode Island's educational community, business community and culture. They are a key part of Rhode Island's future, and I thank Speaker Nicholas Mattiello for his support and involvement in this issue."
"DACA recipients have made meaningful contributions to the state's economy, forming businesses and participating in education," said Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick). "This legislation will guarantee that state law regarding drivers licenses and work authorization will continue to apply to them, no matter how federal deliberations on the issue play out."
Despite bipartisan support in Congress for a path to citizenship, no action has been taken to protect Dreamers at the federal level. Since she's been in office, Governor Raimondo has continually fought for Dreamers. In September, after President Trump announced his intention to end the program, Governor Raimondo secured more than $175,000 to cover the application renewal fees of every Dreamer in Rhode Island. She will continue to call on Congress to take action.
"Today, in Rhode Island, we recognize that while there're still so many injustices that we must help stop, we can act as a state to protect our neighbors, in a bipartisan manner, and for the benefit of all," said Gabriela Domenzain, Director of the Latino Policy Institute and Immigration Activist.
"Dreamers like me work here, live here and study here," said Rodrigo Pimentel, RI DREAMer, activist and DACA recipient. "We strengthen this state and our economy. The fact that I live in a state that has acted in their power to say to me and my other DREAMer friends: we appreciate you, we welcome you, and we will act to make you safe, is what I'm most proud of today."