Some N.C. immigrants will soon be able to obtain driver’s licenses after months of uncertainty — but advocacy groups are not pleased with the final product.
The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles is required to issue temporary licenses to certain immigrants, according to a Jan. 17 statement issued by the N.C. Attorney General’s office in response to confusion among local DMV offices.
BY THE NUMBERS
immigrants eligible nationwide for program
N.C. immigrants eligible for program
states where immigrants qualify for licenses
These immigrants are protected under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy in place since last year, which postpones the deportation of immigrants who entered the country as children.
The DMV will start issuing the licenses March 25, said Greer Beaty, spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Transportation. The licenses will have a pink header and the words “NO LAWFUL STATUS” and “LIMITED TERM” written across the front, Beaty said — a point of contention among immigrant advocacy groups.
Jose Rico, a spokesman for the N.C. DREAM Team, said he opposed the plan.
“They’re creating a second class of citizens,” he said.
Gov. Pat McCrory said in an interview with The (Raleigh) News & Observer that the licenses issued to those protected by the policy must differ significantly in appearance from the standard license.
The federal policy grants renewable two-year work permits to immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16, were younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012 and have served in the military, graduated from high school or are currently in school.
An estimated 18,000 state residents are eligible for this program, according to a report by the Immigration Policy Center. North Carolina is among at least 33 states where officials have confirmed that these immigrants are eligible for licenses.
Greg Steele, chairman of the N.C. Federation of College Republicans, said he supports the licenses.
“This policy represents a bipartisan compromise which seeks to uphold federal recommendations to issue licenses to certain illegal immigrants, yet also upholds the law by allowing a method to easily and effectively recognize when the time period for legal presence ends,” he said.
But critics say these distinctively marked licenses could be perceived as modern-day scarlet letters.
The N.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the licenses could lead to harassment, confusion and racial profiling.
“(These immigrants) are going to work, and they are contributing members of our society,” said Raul Pinto, attorney for the N.C. ACLU.
“There is no reason to, first of all, deny them a license, and now to give them a different license.”
He also said the licenses could pose problems for immigrants completing everyday activities that require an ID, such as boarding a plane.
The N.C. ACLU will partner with other groups to bring attention to the issue, Pinto said.
Contact the desk editor at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.