Salvadore Guiterrez has a bit of a problem right now. He’s been a truck driver for the past four years but as of last month he’s not allowed to drive for a living any more. Guiterrez came to Texas more than 20 years ago from El Salvador. People from that country are able to live and work in the U.S. under what’s called Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. But due to a change in the law, TPS workers can no longer get a commercial driver’s license.
“We have to work. We have to support our families. We’ve got houses, trucks to pay, cars, everything.”
Bianca Santorini is an attorney for the Central American Resource Center. She says the state of Texas issued commercial drivers licenses to protected status people up until the law changed in 2007. But she says even after the change, Texas continued to issue new licenses and renew old ones to TPS workers. That is until now.
“They’re here legally in the country. They’re registered. They followed all of the requirements but Texas has restricted their ability to get a commercial driver’s license.”
The Texas Department of Public Safety, which issues licenses isn’t talking publicly on the matter but issued a statement saying it is aware of the matter and protected status workers will have to apply for nonresident licenses. Problem is — you need a visa to do that and TPS people don’t have visas. So attorney Santorini plans to take the issue to the state legislature in hopes of amending the state law. In the meantime, workers who drive for a living are finding it hard to make ends meet.
“They’ve lost their livelihood. They’re literally not able to work and they have a legal right to work under federal laws, because they do have work permits, or what’s known as an EAD card, which is issued by the federal government.”
The TPS workers still qualify for regular non-commercial drivers licenses but for people like Salvador Guiterrez, getting a pay check means working on the road.