RALEIGH, N.C. — The state Attorney General's Office has determined that people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children are entitled to a North Carolina driver's license if they meet all other requirements.
The Division of Motor Vehicles last week canceled the licenses of 13 people who have applied to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, saying they wanted a legal opinion from the Attorney General's Office on whether issuing the licenses would violate state law.
The DACA program blocks deportation of and grants work permits to immigrants brought to the United States as minors without authorization. North Carolina typically grants driver's licenses to non-citizens with valid federal work papers.
"We believe that individuals who present documentation demonstrating a grant of deferred action by the United States government are legally present in the United States and entitled to a driver's license of limited duration, assuming all other criteria are met," Chief Deputy Attorney General Grayson Kelley wrote in a letter Thursday to DMV Acting Commissioner Eric Boyette.
"This conclusion should not be construed to suggest that individuals granted deferred status under the DACA program have 'lawful status' in the United States," Kelley wrote. "Deferred status ... is a grant of permission to remain in the country for a specified period of time without receiving formal immigration status. The grant of deferred status therefore establishes lawful presence for the period of deferment."
Raul Pinto, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation, said DMV should "do the right thing" and begin reissuing licenses to those in the DACA program.
"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,” Pinto said in a statement.
Boyette said the DMV was reviewing the legal opinion of the Attorney General's Office but declined to comment further.