Pink Driver’s Licenses for NC Immigrants
As the debate over comprehensive immigration reform rages on, states are deciding how they will treat immigrants who are allowed to stay and work in the country but still live in a murky limbo when it comes to legal status. North Carolina has come up with one solution: pink driver’s licenses.
As of the end of January, the federal government had accepted nearly 400,000 applications and approved over 150,000 in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The memorandum issued by President Obama in 2012 grants a temporary work permit to certain immigrants and relief from the danger of deportation for two years. Once the two-year period is up, applicants can be granted renewal.
The order was issued in lieu of the DREAM Act, legislation stalled in Congress that would encompass people fitting similar criteria as DACA but which could provide a permanent path to citizenship.
While the Deferred Action memorandum makes certain provisions at the federal level, it’s up to states to decide how they will accommodate participants in certain areas, particularly when it comes to in-state tuition for public universities and the issuance of driver’s licenses.
At least 34 states have officially confirmed that DACA immigrants can get licenses, or were already eligible anyway. Arizona and Nebraska, by contrast, have specifically excluded people in the program from being able to obtain a license.
North Carolina is taking a unique tack on documenting the undocumented. After delaying a decision on whether to issue licenses at all, the state decided to allow them, but with a pink stripe and the words “NO LAWFUL STATUS” printed across the front.
Governor Pat McCrory said he wanted to distinguish “between legal presence versus legal status.”
“I thought it was a very sound resolution based upon on federal and attorney general’s ruling,” the governor said.
As for tuition, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Washington already grant in-state rates to immigrants who meet similar criteria as those eligible for deferred action.
DACA individuals are specifically excluded from affordable health care options through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Your Huddled Masses
DACA applies to undocumented immigrants who meet a certain criteria, including:
- Born on or after June 16, 1981, but at least 15 years old
- Entered the United States before their 16th birthday
- Resided continuously in the country since June 15, 2007
- Are in school, have a diploma or GED, or were honorably discharged from the military
- Have no felony convictions, fewer than three misdemeanors and do not pose a threat to public safety or national security
Some caveats, according to the Immigration Policy Center: “Deferred action is not amnesty or immunity. It does not provide lawful immigration status or a path to a green card or citizenship. It does not extend to any family members of the person granted deferred action.”
Would-be DACA participants must fill out an application and pay $465 in fees to be considered.
It’s not always smooth sailing. “People can find it sometimes a bit frustrating,” says Jack J. Herzig, an immigration attorney in Philadelphia. “The big thing is you have to prove continuity.”
While the average American could easily prove continuity with records of various monthly transactions, the process is more difficult for immigrants who have lived outside the law in many respects. “Immigrants don’t have at their fingertips things that Americans take for granted,” Herzig says. “They have no bank accounts, and employers are often not willing to provide documentation.”
If they apply, could immigrants actually place themselves at risk if they aren’t accepted? The government claims that information submitted for DACA will not be shared with immigration officials for the purposes of deportation unless it involves “fraud, a criminal offense, a threat to public safety or national security, or other exceptional circumstances.” However, be aware that information could be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patron for purposes other than deportation.
Immigrants who do decide to come forward should also note that the government’s decision is final. “There’s no appeal for this process. If it doesn’t work, there’s no refund,” says Herzig. “It’s success or failure or nothing in between.”