by Lisa Sorg
Undocumented immigrants in North Carolina who have been granted a special status by the Department of Homeland Security can apply for a state driver's license if they have proper legal documentation. This is according to a opinion issued today from N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper.
You can read the opinion here: AG_letter_to_DMV.pdf
Cooper issued his opinion after the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles announced earlier this week it would cancel driver's licenses issued to 13 undocumented immigrants who are legally in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
In September 2012, then-DMV Commissioner Mike Robertson had asked the attorney general's office to weigh in on whether undocumented immigrants who had been approved under DACA could be issued driver's licenses.
In June 2012, Homeland Security established DACA, a program allowing undocumented immigrants who as children had been brought to the U.S. by their parents, to legally stay in the U.S. for two years without being deported.
These immigrants must meet certain criteria: They have to be younger than 30, have graduated from high school or are currently in school or be an honorably discharged veteran, and can't have been convicted of any serious criminal offense.
Individuals approved for this status can apply for a Social Security card and can be legally employed in the U.S.
In his opinion issued today, Cooper wrote that while these immigrants don't have legal "status," they are lawfully present. Thus, the DMV must issue a driver's license "of limited duration," to this group of immigrants who have valid documentation and meet other legal requirements.
INDY Week could not immediately reach a spokesman for the N.C. DMV. Check back for updates.
The Latin American Coalition, based in Charlotte, issued a statement from its executive director, Jess George:
"We are very happy that the North Carolina Attorney General's office has decided on a common sense solution for our state. This decision continues to move North Carolina in a positive direction and provides a shining example of how access and opportunity benefits all of our communities and the state as a whole."
The coalition is demanding that the DMV immediately reinstate the licenses it had issued and cancelled—and that it begin issuing licenses to DACA recipients.