RALEIGH (January 14, 2013) – Two of North Carolina’s leading civil rights organizations are asking state officials to reinstate a policy that allowed young immigrants who have been authorized to be in the United States and granted work permits under a federal program to receive North Carolina driver’s licenses.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles had until recently been granting licenses to young immigrants who had been granted a two-year work permit under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. That program blocks deportation for young immigrants who came to the U.S. before they turned 16, are not older than 31, have graduated high school or attended college, or served in the military. The state DMV now says it will stop issuing licenses to DACA deferred action recipients until it receives a legal opinion from the state attorney general.
In a Jan. 11 letter, the American Civil Liberties of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) and North Carolina Justice Center urged the North Carolina Attorney General’s office to advise the DMV to continue to issue driver’s licenses to deferred action recipients. The letter points out that DACA recipients are “legally present” in the U.S. and are eligible to obtain all DMV-required documentation, including Social Security numbers and employment authorization. Many states, including North Carolina, allow immigrants with work permits to obtain licenses. Last week, Illinois lawmakers passed a law that would allow all undocumented immigrants to receive temporary licenses. The ACLU and other groups filed litigation in Michigan and Arizona after officials denied licenses to DACA recipients there.
"North Carolina should not be going down the same path as Arizona where these young immigrants are concerned,” said Kate Woomer-Deters, a managing attorney with the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project – North Carolina at the North Carolina Justice Center. “These immigrants live and work legally in this country, they meet all the requirements for a North Carolina driver’s license, and there is no legal or practical justification to deny them licenses.”
“North Carolina’s denial of driver’s licenses to people who meet all DMV requirements raises serious constitutional concerns,” said Raul Pinto, ACLU-NCLF staff attorney. “We hope officials do the right thing and continue to grant licenses to all drivers who qualify. It makes no sense to say that people authorized to live and work in the United States should not be allowed to drive.”