Raleigh, N.C. — House Democrats spoke out Monday in support of a bill prohibiting the state from issuing distinctively marked licenses to young immigrants allowed to be in the U.S. under federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
DACA allows a two-year block on deportation for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children, who are in or have completed school or are in the military and who have no criminal record.
After DACA was implemented, the state Division of Motor Vehicles asked for an official opinion on the matter from state Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Once Cooper advised that DACA immigrants are legally eligible for licenses, Transportation Secretary Tony Tata announced he would begin issuing them, but only with a special design that includes a bright pink stripe across the top and with the words "NO LEGAL STATUS" imprinted on them.
House Bill 184 would ban the state from using the special design.
"We are the only state where there's a proposal on the table, supported by the governor, to have this sort of pink stripe" said sponsor Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham.
Under Luebke's proposal, licenses for DACA drivers would look like other licenses but would be set to expire at the end of their two-year grace period.
"The solution is simply to realize that these young people are legal," he said. "They should be treated like everyone else."
Rep. Rick, Glazier, D-Cumberland, said the "pink-stripe license" would stigmatize the holder every time he or she has to produce it. "It serves no legitimate state purpose," he said.
Millbrook High School graduate Jose Rico has lived in the U.S. for 10 years and would be eligible for a license under DACA. He called the special license a "scarlet letter."
"The state is outing us, putting us in a box that we are illegal when we do hold legal presence here in this state to work and, now, to drive," Rico said.
Rabbi John Friedman of Judea Reform Congregation in Durham said he couldn't imagine what supporters of the special license were thinking.
"All I can imagine is that they could not see in the faces of young people like this the faces of their own children," said Friedman. "Would they deny their own children hope?"
The measure faces long odds in the Republican-dominated legislature. McCrory has called the special license a "pragmatic compromise," saying DACA licenses must be visually distinct to make sure the license holder can't register to vote or access government services.