New state laws in the US: Undocumented migrants will be able to obtain professional and driver’s licenses

A variety of legislation went into effect in different parts of the country, dealing with everything from minimum wage to housing and hidden fees

In this Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, photo, Border Patrol agent Hermann Rivera drives in McAllen, Texas, near the U.S.-Mexico border on a patrol searching for immigrants who have entered the country illegally. In the Rio Grande Valley, the southernmost point of Texas and historically the busiest section for border crossings, the U.S. Border Patrol is apprehending around 300 people daily. That’s down from as many as 2,000 people a day in May. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Undocumented migrants in Illinois are now eligible for a standard driver's license.Eric Gay (AP)
José Luis Ávila

The month of July began with the entry into force of new laws in several U.S. states, including some that affect undocumented migrants. At a time when the topic of immigration has taken center stage in the presidential campaign, the State of Washington has just enacted a measure that will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for professional state licenses and certifications that previously could only be obtained with a social insurance number. And Illinois will provide standard driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Displaying a completely different attitude, an anti-immigrant law went into effect in Tennessee that requires state law enforcement officials to communicate with federal immigration authorities if they discover people who are in the the country illegally, and mandates cooperation in the process of identifying, detaining and deporting them. Meanwhile, Florida has introduced tougher penalties for people who drive without a valid or a suspended license; California and Colorado have legislated on housing, and the nation’s capital has raised the minimum wage for workers.


After the law that established a minimum wage of $16, California has become the first jurisdiction to impose an 11% tax on the purchase of firearms, ammunition and spare parts, in order to finance state programs to prevent gun violence and support gang intervention. Likewise, the state has enacted a price transparency law banning hidden charges, ensuring that fees are refundable and penalizing violators. Only restaurants will be able to charge extra amounts as long as these are clearly shown on the menu.

Other laws that went into effect in July include housing rules: lease contracts signed after July 1 may only collect one month’s security deposit. Owners will be allowed to make additional charges if the damage caused to the property exceeds the amount of the deposit.


Undocumented immigrants will be eligible for a standard driver’s license starting this month, and this document will be considered a valid piece of identification. However, the card will say “federal limits apply,” so that it cannot be used to take a domestic flight or enter restricted government buildings.


This week, Tennessee’s anti-immigrant law comes into force that requires state law enforcement officials to communicate with federal immigration authorities if they discover people who are in the the country illegally, and mandates cooperation in the process of identifying, detaining and deporting them. The state joins others such as Texas, Iowa and Louisiana, with similar legislation.

On the other hand, students will have permission to carry stun guns, tasers or other means of personal defense for their own safety in the event of an attack or shooting.

Washington D.C.

In the country’s capital, the minimum wage for workers is increasing from $17 to $17.50 per hour. Tipped employees will also see their earnings rise from $8 to $10 an hour. The government established that if an employee’s hourly tips (averaged weekly), added to their base minimum wage, do not reach the District’s minimum wage, the employer must pay the difference.


Undocumented immigrants will now have the opportunity to apply for professional state licenses and certifications. These types of certificates are necessary to practice certain activities, including occupations like doctors and teachers. Immigrants who work in construction, teaching, real estate or care for children and the sick may benefit. Among the requirements requested by the new legislation is having a valid tax identification number.

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