In an incredibly short-sighted move, the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) stopped issuing driver’s licenses several months ago to young immigrants who had been granted a two-year work permit under the DACA program. That program, enacted by the Obama administration last year, 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. Under pressure from the public, DMV recently sought and received an opinion by the state Attorney General’s office that confirms the validity of granting the licenses.
A recent article by the Winston-Salem Journal summarizes where things stand today:
“In light of this clear opinion, the DMV should do the right thing and reinstate its policy of granting licenses to all qualified drivers who have received deferred action,” said Raul Pinto, staff attorney for the ACLU-N.C. Legal Foundation. “There is no reason – legal or otherwise – why the DMV should prevent immigrants authorized to live and work in the United States from driving and further contributing to our state and society.”
Moises Serrano, a Yadkin County resident who has applied for deferred action and is an immigrant advocate, said that he was “elated” when he heard about the deputy attorney general’s opinion. But he also cautioned that a broader solution is needed.
“It reinforces the idea that we need more than deferred action. We can’t stay in this limbo wondering if the driver’s license is going be taken away tomorrow. We need comprehensive immigration reform. We need to know what’s going to happen to our community. We need to know what’s going to happen to our parents,” he said.
This issue is another example of politics getting in the way of good policy. It’s just common sense that every driver on the roads should take the test and have insurance. As the Charlotte Observer wrote in an editorial last week: “Issuing the driver’s licenses is the sensible thing for North Carolina to do. Under the deferred deportation program announced last June, the immigrants receive two-year work permits. But denying them a driver’s license can cripple their ability to get and keep a job. Lacey Williams, youth program director at the Latin American Coalition, put it aptly: ‘I don’t know who they think will benefit to have this class of people who can now work but cannot drive. It just doesn’t make sense.'”
-Chris Liu-Beers, Program Associate