Lawyers for two civil rights groups called on state officials today to reinstate a policy that made driver’s licenses available to young illegal immigrants who are taking part in a federal program that blocks their deportation for two years (see their letter, below).
“They have all the required documents,” said Kate Woomer-Deters, an immigrant rights advocate with the N.C. Justice Center. “They have an employment authorization card showing their legal presence in the country. They are fully eligible for North Carolina driver’s licenses.” (Update: Here's today's full story with reader comments.)
The state Division of Motor Vehicles says it has stopped issuing the licenses, pending a ruling from state Attorney General Roy Cooper on whether an estimated 18,000 to 50,000 young men and women in the state who are eligible for the federal program are also eligible to drive under state law.
President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in June to prevent the deportation of an estimated 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children. The DACA program grants two-year work permits for those who immigrated before they turned 16, are not yet older than 30, and have served in the military or are high school graduates or attending college.
Former DMV Commissioner Mike Robertson quietly requested the attorney general’s ruling shortly before he retired in October (see his letter, below).
His question centered on applicants for licenses who are not U.S. citizens, and documents they must provide to certify their “legal presence” in the country. Robertson asked whether DMV should accept a federal employment authorization card with a special “C33” code, which indicates that the applicant is taking part in the DACA program.
“No such licenses will be issued unless we receive written guidance from your office informing us that North Carolina law does, in fact, require them to be issued,” Robertson wrote in a Sept. 10 letter to Cooper.
The N.C. Justice Center and the American Civil Liberties Union’s state chapter said Cooper’s office should tell DMV to issue the licenses. The two groups released a letter to Cooper’s staff, dated Friday, asserting that DACA participants meet North Carolina’s legal requirements for receiving a license.