While a change to the Texas Transportation Code was enacted in 2007, it is only now being enforced by the Department of Public Safety (DPS), and it could spell disaster for legal immigrant truck drivers.
The newly enforced law requires all applicants for commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) who are not U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, asylees, or refugees to obtain a special “non-resident” CDL.
The problem comes from the DPS decision to cancel the CDLs of immigrants who lack certain immigration and/or travel documents even if they are legally authorized to work in the United States. This is especially an issue for immigrants granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
TPS holds off the deportation of those from countries torn apart by war or natural disaster. The DPS law took effect in September of 2007, but the requirement of three specific documents TPS immigrants needed to gain a CDL was not enforced until now, so all the CDLs given to these immigrants have been suspended.
Some would argue that the drivers with suspended CDLs should simply present these three documents to the DMV and get everything straightened out, but that is not possible for many of them. Recipients of the TOS are not issued the documents requires by the code. They are only given documentation showing they are legally authorized to work in the states, but that documentation will no longer be accepted.
DPS spokesperson Tele Mange estimates that around 1,800 “non-resident” CDLsa have been issued in error since September 1st, 2007. She added that those whose CDLs have been suspended have 90 days to present their passport, visa, and I-95 form (which they were never issued) before the licenses are canceled.
When Mange was asked why DPS only started enforcing the three-document requirement recently when the code has been in effect since September of 2007, she said, “I’m not sure what changed,” and that DPS’s is unable to do anything about it.
Mange agreed that not issuing TPS immigrants the required documentation is an issue, but said DPS was powerless to do anything about that either.
“The Legistlature would have to change that. It’s a law, not a rule… Out hands are tied right now.