by: Pat Hernandez, February 14, 2011 5:02:00 pm
A change to the Texas Transportation Code in 2007 dictated what documents were required for applicants who are not U.S. citizens but here legally, to get a commercial drivers license.
Temporary Protective Status was not one of the documents needed, but a passport, federal entry papers, and a valid visa. When DPS began to enforce the law just last year, it didn't notify commercial drivers, like Faivel CiFuentes, of the problem.
"What went through my mind right away was my wife and my son, because I'm the only one that works. My wife goes to school, and so I'm the only bread winner for my household. And, I was just basically losing it — thinking what was I gonna do for my family?"
Maria Jimenez with Houston's America for All, a non-profit that provides legal assistance for TPS holders
Maria Jimenez is with Houston's America for All, a non-profit that provides legal assistance for many TPS holders.
"I have never seen so many men, who are truck drivers, basically break down and cry, because it meant an end to their employment. They were losing their trucks if they owned them. They were losing their jobs if they were in trucking companies, and so it ultimately meant a whole change of their lifestyle."
Last week, a new policy was announced to stop revoking the commercial drivers licenses of immigrants here legally after hundreds of drivers protested. Attorney Bianca Santorini was at the DPS office in SW Houston to make sure that commercial drivers had no problem getting their license.
"We were actually surprised to find that upper management or the offices out of Austin — the headquarters — they were not really completely aware of what was going on. They were very cooperative, and I think now our biggest issue is gonna make sure that we can train the local offices to implement the new law."
attorney with Houston's
America for All
Santorini says the drivers have a legal right to work because of their permits issued by the feds.
"They've allowed people who are here legally to obtain commercial drivers licenses, maintain their work, their livelihood, and there's no restrictions. There's no restrictions. They have a commercial drivers license just like anyone else."
It took Faivel CiFuentes almost an hour to get his license back. He says he can't wait to get back to work.
"It's such a great feeling, because I felt like I have my life put together now. Because the day when they downgraded me to a class-C, I felt like they took a leg from me."
PH: "So, when do you go back to work?"
CiFuentes: "Oh, tomorrow, tomorrow!"