02/19/2013 06:04 pm ET

Puerto Rico To Consider Driver's Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants

The governor of the most Latino territory in the United States is taking a stand for undocumented immigrants.

Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro García Padilla said Monday that he would submit legislation to allow undocumented immigrants residing on the island to apply for driver’s licenses, El Nuevo Día reports.

García Padilla said he hoped the measure would “enhance and deepen human rights in Puerto Rico,” according to El Nuevo Día.

President Barack Obama’s decision to grant deferred deportation and work authorization to most immigrants who arrived in the United States as children has opened a debate in many U.S. states over whether to grant driver’s licenses to beneficiaries of the new policy. García Padilla’s comments, however, appeared to apply to all undocumented immigrants on the island, rather than just those who qualify for deferred deportation.

Dominicans make up the largest group of undocumented immigrants in Puerto Rico. Jorge Duany, an anthropologist at the University of Puerto Rico, told Spanish newswire EFE in 2011 that he estimates the island’s undocumented Dominican population at more than 100,000.

The idea was well received by Rolando Acosta, the president of the group Dominican Integration.

“These people will now come out into the public light,” Acosta said, according to EFE.

A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement told Noticias 24/7 that the agency did not intend to comment on the proposal.

García Padilla didn’t stop at driver’s licenses. He also said he planned to issue an executive order prohibiting the island’s Department of Health from asking about immigration status, according to El Nuevo Día.

The proposal contrasts a bill put forward by Arizona State Rep. Steve Smith that would require hospitals to contact immigration authorities if patients cannot provide proof of citizenship. Smith’s bill is more lenient on undocumented immigrants who are Canadian.

García Padilla announced the policy changes at an event marking the 115th anniversary of the birthday of Luis Muñoz, one of the founders of the Popular Democratic Party.



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